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Wikipedia says The North Face 'manipulated' site to top Google results

The apparel brand swapped images on Wikipedia with its own to promote its products in search.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
Expertise Abrar has spent her career at CNET analyzing tech trends while also writing news, reviews and commentaries across mobile, streaming and online culture. Credentials
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Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read
The North Face

Wikipedia slammed The North Face for adding product photos to the platform to boost its search ranking.

NurPhoto/Getty Images

Wikipedia says The North Face violated its terms by swapping photos on the site with its own in order to appear at the top of Google searches. 

The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that hosts Wikipedia, said Wednesday that The North Face and ad agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made "unethically manipulated" Wikipedia after removing photos on the platform and replacing them with ones featuring The North Face's products. 

In an ad campaign video boasting about the strategy, the companies said they "hacked the results" so that The North Face appears at the top of Google whenever someone searches for an adventure. They said they paid "absolutely nothing just by collaborating with Wikipedia." The Wikimedia Foundation denied involvement in the campaign. 

"What they did was akin to defacing public property," the Wikimedia Foundation said in a post. "When The North Face exploits the trust you have in Wikipedia to sell you more clothes, you should be angry. Adding content that is solely for commercial promotion goes directly against the policies, purpose and mission of Wikipedia to provide neutral, fact-based knowledge to the world."

Volunteers with the Wikimedia Foundation took down The North Face's images or cropped out the logos and are ensuring the affected articles "meet Wikipedia's standards of neutrality and reliable sourcing," the nonprofit said.

Wikipedia tweeted about the incident, saying: "Yesterday, we were disappointed to learn that @thenorthface and @LeoBurnett unethically manipulated Wikipedia. They have risked your trust in our mission for a short-lived consumer stunt."

In a statement, The North Face said: "We believe deeply in @Wikipedia's mission and apologize for engaging in activity inconsistent with those principles. Effective immediately, we have ended the campaign and moving forward, we'll commit to ensuring that our teams and vendors are better trained on the site policies."

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