Wikipedia Wars: The 10 Most Controversial Articles on Wikipedia


wikipedia wars

If the most controversial Wikipedia articles in every language were analyzed, what could we reveal about the world?

With a workforce of over 77,000 contributors creating 22 million articles in 285 different languages, Wikipedia, the editable online encyclopedia, is a major force of knowledge. But with so many articles (4 million in English alone) edited by huge numbers of people, there are bound to be disputes on the veracity of certain topics. Often times people will get into “edit wars” where somebody will make a correction to an article, only to see it undone by another person immediately after. This back and forth editing, un-editing, and re-editing was analyzed by Taha Yasseri at the University of Oxford in order to determine the most controversial topics in the world.

Each language has its own version of Wikipedia. A search for “Jesus” on the English Wikipedia will return a different result than a search for “Jesus” on the German version. While the information contained is roughly the same, they are not simple translations of one version. Each language builds its own encyclopedic reference. Yasseri looked for controversial articles in 10 different languages that fit into three groupings: English, German, French, and Spanish; Czech, Hungarian, and Romanian; and Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew. “The data… offers a window into not just the topics and places that different language communities are interested in, but also the topics that seem worth fighting about,” wrote Yasseri in the findings.

By comparing the top 100 controversial articles, those which had the most mutual reversion edits, for 10 languages, the researchers were able to craft a framework of controversial themes across the world. They found 25 percent of the 1000 contentious articles were related to politics, 15 percent to religion, 9 percent to history, and 7 percent to science, among other divisions. Sports dominated the evaluated articles in the Spanish wiki, whereas religion, geography, and history were most contested in the Arabic, Hebrew, and Farsi wikis. Science and technology revisions were most common in the German and Czech articles, and music and entertainment were highly argued in the Romanian wiki. But some things were shared across the board. Israel, Adolf Hitler, the Holocaust, God, Jesus, Islam, and Muhammad scored highly debated in all language divisions.

“The English Wikipedia, in particular, occupies a unique role. The language’s status as a lingua franca, means that English Wikipedia ends up being edited by a broad community beyond simply that have the language as a mother tongue,” wrote Yasseri. But while the larger English wiki may show a global view, the smaller wikis offer a spyglass to observe the important regional disputes that would get drowned out in the universal view.

“Wikipedia is more than just an encyclopedia,” wrote Yasseri “It is also a window into convergent and divergent social-spatial priorities, interests and preferences.” The top 10 lists show where and how these priorities coalesce and divide.


Cluster view of controversial topics in English, Spanish, French, and German

English

  1. George W. Bush
  2. Anarchism
  3. Muhammad
  4. List of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. employees
  5. Global Warming
  6. Circumcision
  7. United States
  8. Jesus
  9. Race and intelligence
  10. Christianity

German

  1. Croatia
  2. Scientology
  3. 9/11 conspiracy theories
  4. Fraternities
  5. Homeopathy
  6. Adolf Hitler
  7. Jesus
  8. Hugo Chavez
  9. Minimum Wage
  10. Rudolf Steiner

French

  1. Ségolène Roy­al
  2. Unidentified flying object
  3. Jehovah’s Witnesses
  4. Jesus
  5. Sigmund Freud
  6. September 11 attacks
  7. Muhammad al-Durrah incident
  8. Islamophobia
  9. God in Christianity
  10. Nuclear power debate

Spanish

  1. Chile
  2. Club América
  3. Opus Dei
  4. Athletic Bilbao
  5. Andrés Manuel López Obrador
  6. Newell’s Old Boys
  7. FC Barcelona
  8. Homeopathy
  9. Augusto Pinochet
  10. Alianza Lima

Scatter view of overlapping controversial articles in Czech, Hungarian, and Romanian Wikipedia

Czech

  1. Homosexuality
  2. Psychotronics
  3. Telepathy
  4. Communism
  5. Homophobia
  6. Jesus
  7. Moravia
  8. Sexual orientation change efforts
  9. Ross Hedvíček
  10. Israel

Hungarian

  1. Gypsy Crime
  2. Atheism
  3. Hungarian radical right
  4. Viktor Orbán
  5. Hungarian Guard Move­ment
  6. Ferenc Gyurc­sány’s speech in May 2006
  7. The Mortimer case
  8. Hungarian far-right
  9. Jobbik
  10. Polgár Tamás

Romanian

  1. FC Universit­atea Craiova
  2. Mircea Badea
  3. Disney Chan­nel (Romania)
  4. Legionnaires’ rebellion & Bucharest pogrom
  5. Lugoj
  6. Vladimir Tis­măneanu
  7. Craiova
  8. Romania
  9. Traian Băsescu
  10. Romanian Or­thodox Church

Arabic

  1. Ash’ar
  2. Ali bin Talal al Jahani
  3. Muhammad
  4. Ali
  5. Egypt
  6. Syria
  7. Sunni Islam
  8. Wahhabi
  9. Yasser Al-Habib
  10. Arab people

Farsi

  1. Báb
  2. Fatimah
  3. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
  4. People’s Mujahedin of Iran
  5. Criticism of the Quran
  6. Tabriz
  7. Ali Khamenei
  8. Ruhollah Khomeini
  9. Massoud Rajavi
  10. Muhammad

Hebrew

  1. Chabad
  2. Chabad messianism
  3. 2006 Lebanon War
  4. B’Tselem
  5. Benjamin Netanyahu
  6. Jewish settlement in Hebron
  7. Daphni Leef
  8. Gaza War
  9. Beitar Jerusalam F.C.
  10. Ariel Sharon

Attribution

“The most controversial topics in Wikipedia: A multilingual and geographical analysis”
images from the Search Crystal for the data set


  • Funfacts

    I thought we’de find here the Illuminati mystery at least once. You know How if you start from the Illuminati page : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illuminati and click on every first word – that are not beetween brackets – the 13th is telling us that it is a true thing.

    It is like even telling us a story, here are the 13 steps :
    Illuminati > Enlightenment > Cultural movement > Art > Human activities > behaviors > organisms > biology > natural science > science > Knowledge > facts > Proven (Proof- truth)

    Funny I suppose :)

  • MD

    Wow, spectacular. Great work and thank you, Taha.

  • ganqqwerty

    oh. And where is the statistics for Russian Wikipedia?

  • Steve O’Keefe

    I assume #4 on the English list is supposed to be “World Wrestling Entertainment,” not “World Wresting Entertainment”? I wrest my case.

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