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Wikipedia-Wars: Topics that Sparked Global Conversations

The most hotly contested articles on Wikipedia’s English-language edition are about ex-US President George W Bush and anarchism, research has revealed.

Scientists analysed ten editions of the online resource to find which topics are most strongly fought over by contributors. They found that whilst some topics were regionally contentious, many religious subjects, such as God and Jesus, were debated globally.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and three other institutions dissected logs of changes made to Wikipedia pages to identify the ones that are entrenched in an “edit war”. Articles involved in this struggle experience editor changes being instantly undone by another editor.

In a paper detailing their work, researchers pointed out that finding the pages that editors fight over was a more reliable indicator of controversial subjects than simply identifying those that changed a lot.

Pages that are about a rapidly changing topic are subject to a lot of updates. However, pages that contain words and phrases that are being constantly erased and reinstated give a much better indication that these articles are provoking a deeper sense of feeling amongst the contributors.

The research covered 10 separate language versions of Wikipedia including English, Spanish, Arabic and Czech and the data analysed dated from articles published in 2010.

The most controversial subjects across the 10 editions were:

  • Israel
  • Adolf Hitler
  • The Holocaust
  • God

In addition, other religious topics such as Jesus, Christianity and the Prophet Muhammad were also hotly contested by editors. The analysis further exposed many local disagreements.

In France for instance, editors fought over French politician Ségolène Royal, whilst in Romania the football team Universit­atea Craiova proved to be most controversial.

The research team plan to look at more recent data from Wikipedia and map editorial wars over time to see the ebb and flow of contentious subjects.

Ultimately, the issue of authority remains at the heart of the Wikipedia debate. So called ‘editors’ often change content to fit their own ideologies and may not be based on fact which could be a further issue of contention.

Whatever you believe, Wikipedia has become and will continue to be a universal source of information for people the world over – just remember to take that info with a pinch of salt as often opinions can be construed as fact.