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


  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


  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


  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


  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


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


  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


  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


  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


  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


  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


“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 : 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.

Commentary Ticker

  • Data Knows Best: Greatest TV Shows Get Ranked and Graphed
    March 26, 2014 | 10:50 am

    Every argument is better with charts and graphs. Sometimes a little linear regression can provide more insight than a long-winded report. GraphTV tests that theory by plotting the ratings of popular television shows. It all started with Breaking Bad. Data guru Kevin Wu was watching its fifth and final season and couldn’t help but think [...]

  • A Coin-Inspired National Spirit, Hopefully
    March 20, 2014 | 11:56 am

    The Lakota Nation, a group of seven Native American bands in North and South Dakota, voted to make a Bitcoin-like crypto-currency called MazaCoin their official currency, according to Forbes. Programmer and Lakota activist Payu Harris believes that the coin will help the Lakota people gain sovereignty over their land. “To be a truly independent state [...]

  • Smartguns and the Promise of Progress
    March 3, 2014 | 9:50 am

    With the recent Sandy Hook elementary school shooting (and the 44 school shootings since) still relatively fresh in our collective minds, and with Congress empirically unable to do anything to stop gun violence at all, it seems slowing, if not stopping, the gun violence epidemic has fallen on a strange coalition of gun manufacturers, Silicon [...]

  • Watch: Movies Without Imaginary Friends
    January 28, 2014 | 12:56 pm

    If you seriously haven’t watched Fight Club yet (or read the book by Chuck Palahniuk) stop and go do that right now. You’re fifteen years late to the craziest party. Okay, you’ve watched it now? Onwards. A visual effects specialist in New York accelerated himself to Internet fame in mid-January when he edited Tyler Durden [...]

  • The Racism of “Racism”: The Complicated Origins of the Term
    January 17, 2014 | 12:27 pm

    “Racism,” like race, was invented. The term “racism” has done a lot of heavy lifting for anti-racism advocates, helping to frame anyone discriminating by race as misguided. Just as with classism or sexism, not only does the word racism give name to an evil, it helps to create the thing as evil in the first [...]

  • RSSArchive for Commentary Ticker »

Join our mailing list!

Trending on The Airspace