Wikipedia Information on Controversial Topics Can Be Misleading


wikipedia-wrong-informationShort Bytes: Wikipedia, the world’s biggest free online encyclopedia continuously faces vandalism. The information sabotage is, however, more on controversial scientific topics, reveals a study.

With over 35 million articles in 288 different languages, Wikipedia is no doubt the most widely use encyclopedia for information. As Wikipedia is getting a makeover too, from school students to scholars, Wikipedia is considered a chalice for free and reliable information. So basically, Wikipedia is awesome. The reason for its vast database and the constant information update is the provision that allows anyone to edit the articles “giving trustworthy references”. Now, here the problem starts.

According to a recently published paper in the journal PLOS One, the science articles that seem politically controversial face extreme vandalism. Researchers Dr. Gene E. Likens, professor at the University of Connecticut with Dr. Adam M. Wilson, a geographer at the University of Buffalo, together analyzed three politically debatable science topics (acid rain, evolution, and global warming) and four slightly less controversial scientific topics (the standard model in physics, heliocentrism, general relativity, and continental drift).

As they checked the past ten years edit history of all the seven articles, they found that controversial scientific topics faced heavy viewership and were equally susceptible to editing.

Global Warming, for example, faced on average two to three edits daily of more than 100 words, whereas the articles on the standard model of physics were generally edited with a mere 10 words in few weeks. The viewership on Global Warming was about 15,000 to 20,000 pageviews per day, in comparison to 1,000 views for heliocentrism.

This clearly shows more people regularly refer to simple yet controversial scientific topics for factual information and vandalizing the Wikipedia with edit wars will lead to a spread of false information on a large scale.

Bad editing, or pranks in some cases can be seen on most of the Wikipedia articles, but sabotaging information of the most viewed science topics can be hazardous.

Wikipedia editors, however, differ from the study as they believe: ‘Vandalism and inaccuracies occur, but thanks to Wikipedia’s open, collaborative model the vast majority of inaccurate content is removed within minutes.’

Wikipedia is one of the best sources to get information, and it is no surprise the free online encyclopedia giant gets the top organic Google results for most of your queries. Still, for our readers sake, we must say, always cross check the information from various sources and scrutinize them all to get your answers.

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Aashish Sharma

Aashish Sharma

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