An international lobbying company tried to remove references to a client's brand of lager as the "wife beater" from the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.
Stella Artois used to market itself under the slogan "reassuringly expensive" but became popularly known in Britain as the "wife beater" beer because of its high alcohol content and perceived connection with aggression and binge drinking.
Now, inquiries by the Labour MP Tom Watson have revealed attempts by Portland Communications, which is run by Tony Blair's former adviser Tim Allan, to improve the brand's online reputation on behalf of its client, the brewer AB InBev.
Under the user name Portlander10 it removed reference to Stella Artois from the Wikipedia page entitled "Wife beater" and replaced it with a generic reference to lager or beer. Portland also tried to remove the reference to wife beater on the Wikipedia page for Stella Artois. But other users spotted the edit and reversed it.
The user Portlander10 also set up the Wikipedia page for Portland Communications and created links from the pages of Tim Allan and fellow Portland executive George Pascoe-Watson to the Portland Communications page.
According to Wikipedia records, the IP address 126.96.36.199 – which has been traced to Portland – was the source of a number of other Wikipedia edits.
These included the pages for the Kazakhstan bank BTA and its former head Mukhtar Ablyazov. BTA is a client of Portland's. Information was added with regard to BTA seeking legal action against Mr Ablyazov for corruption. Mr Ablyazov denies any claims of corruption. On Mr Ablyazov's page someone using the Portland IP address removed references to the impact Mr Ablyazov's request for asylum in the UK was having on UK-Kazakhstan relations.
A spokesman for Portland did not deny it had made the changes, saying they had been done in an open manner and within Wikipedia's rules.Reuse content