List of Wikipedia controversies

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

John Seigenthaler, an American journalist, was the subject of a defamatory Wikipedia hoax article in May 2005. The hoax raised questions about the reliability of Wikipedia and other websites with user-generated content.[1]

Since the launch of Wikipedia in 2001, the site has faced several controversies. Wikipedia's open-editing model, under which anyone can edit most articles, has led to concerns such as the quality of writing, the amount of vandalism, and the accuracy of information on the project. The media have covered controversial events and scandals related to Wikipedia and its funding organization, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF). Common subjects of coverage include articles containing false information, public figures, corporations editing articles for which they have a conflict of interest, paid Wikipedia editing and hostile interactions between Wikipedia editors and public figures.

The Seigenthaler biography incident[2] led to media criticism of the reliability of Wikipedia. The incident dates back to May 2005, with the anonymous posting of a hoax Wikipedia article containing false and negative allegations about John Seigenthaler, a well-known American journalist. In March 2007, Wikipedia was again the subject of media attention with the Essjay controversy, which involved a prominent English Wikipedia editor and administrator, who claimed he was a "tenured professor of religion at a private university" with a "Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law" when in fact he was a 24-year-old who held no advanced degrees.[3][4]

The 2012 scandals involving paid consultancy for the government of Gibraltar by Roger Bamkin, a Wikimedia UK board member,[5][6] and potential conflicts of interest have highlighted Wikipedia's vulnerabilities.[5] The presence of inaccurate and false information, as well as the perceived hostile editing climate, have been linked to a decline in editor participation.[7] Another controversy arose in 2013 after an investigation by Wikipedians found that the Wiki-PR company had edited Wikipedia for paying clients, using "an army" of sockpuppet accounts that purportedly included 45 Wikipedia editors and administrators.[8][9] In 2015, the Orangemoody investigation showed that businesses and minor celebrities had been blackmailed over their Wikipedia articles by a coordinated group of fraudsters, again using hundreds of sockpuppets. Controversies within and concerning Wikipedia and the WMF have been the subject of several scholarly papers.[10][11] This list is a collection of the more notable instances.


The nature of Wikipedia controversies has been analyzed by scholars. Sociologist Howard Rheingold says that "Wikipedia controversies have revealed the evolution of social mechanisms in the Wikipedia community";[10] a study of the politicization of socio-technical spaces remarked that Wikipedia "controversies ... become fully-fledged when they are advertised outside the page being debated";[11] and one college discusses Wikipedia as a curricular tool, in that "recent controversies involving Wikipedia [are used] as a basis for discussion of ethics and bias."[12]

Editing restrictions[edit]

Despite being promoted as an encyclopedia "anyone can edit", the ability to edit controversial pages is sometimes restricted because of "edit wars" or vandalism.[13] To address criticism about restricting access while minimizing malicious editing of those pages, Wikipedia has also tried measures such as "pending changes protection" which allows open editing of contentious articles, with the caveat that an experienced editor must approve new users' edits before they become visible to the public.[14][15]



  • February 2002 – In late February 2002, the Spanish Wikipedia community decided to break away ("fork") from Wikipedia to protest plans by co-founders Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger to sell advertising on Wikipedia sites.[16] The fork, set up by volunteer Edgar Enyedy, was hosted at the University of Seville under the name Enciclopedia Libre Universal en Español.[17] Most of the Spanish volunteers followed Enyedy, producing over 10,000 articles within a year. As a result, the Spanish Wikipedia was virtually inactive until mid-2003.[17] Since this incident, the question of advertising has been a sensitive subject on Wikipedia.[17] In an interview with Wired in January 2011, Wales categorically denied having supported the plans for advertising,[18] prompting a public dispute with Sanger.[19] "The suggestion that I demanded ads and that Jimmy Wales was opposed to them is, I am afraid, yet another self-serving lie from Wales", wrote Sanger.[19] As late as 2006 Wales refused to deny that there would ever be advertising on Wikipedia. In January of that year he told a reporter from ClickZ that "the question is going to arise as to whether we could better pursue our charitable mission with the additional money [ads would bring]. We have never said there would absolutely never be ads on Wikipedia."[20]
The "rambot spike" in late 2002 into early 2003
  • October 2002 – Derek Ramsey increased the number of Wikipedia articles by about 40% with the creation of a bot called Rambot that generated 33,832 Wikipedia stub articles from October 19 to 25 for every missing county, town, city, and village in the United States, based on free information from the United States Census of 2000.[21] In The Wikipedia Revolution, Andrew Lih called it "the most controversial move in Wikipedia history".[21]


  • September 2005
  • The Seigenthaler incident[2] was a series of events that began in May 2005 with the anonymous posting of a hoax article in Wikipedia about John Seigenthaler, a well-known American journalist. The article falsely stated that Seigenthaler had been a suspect in the assassinations of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Additionally, the article erroneously stated that Seigenthaler had lived in the Soviet Union for 13 years beginning in 1971. Seigenthaler, who had been a friend and aide to Robert Kennedy, characterized the Wikipedia entry about him as "Internet character assassination".[22] The perpetrator of the hoax, Brian Chase, who was trying to fool a coworker as a prank, was identified by Wikipedia critic Daniel Brandt and reporters for The New York Times.[23] The hoax was removed from Wikipedia in early October 2005 (although the false information stayed on and for another three weeks), after which Seigenthaler wrote about his experience in USA Today.[22][24]
  • Professional book indexer Daniel Brandt started now defunct Wikipedia criticism website ""[23] in response to his unpleasant experience while trying to get his biography deleted.[25]
Jimmy Wales's autobiographical edits attracted criticism in December 2005.
  • November/December 2005 – The IP address assigned to the United States House of Representatives was blocked from editing Wikipedia because of a large number of edits comprising a "deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of the encyclopedia."[26] According to CBS News, these changes included edits to Marty Meehan's Wikipedia article to give it a more positive tone.[27] The edits to Meehan's article prompted a former director of the United States Office of Government Ethics to say that "[t]hat kind of usage, plus the fact that they're changing one person's material, is certainly wrong and ought to be at a minimum the focus of some disciplinary action".[26]
  • December 2005 – Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales was found to be editing his own Wikipedia article. According to public logs, he had made 18 edits to his biography, seven of which were alterations of information about whether Larry Sanger was a co-founder of Wikipedia. It was also revealed that Wales had edited the Wikipedia article of his former company, Bomis. "Bomis Babes", a section of the Bomis website, had been characterized in the article as "soft-core pornography", but Wales revised this to "adult content section" and deleted mentions of pornography. He said he was fixing an error, and did not agree with calling Bomis Babes soft porn. Wales conceded that he had made the changes, but maintained that they were technical corrections.[28][29]


  • February 1, 2006 – The Henryk Batuta hoax was uncovered by editors on the Polish Wikipedia. Batuta, an entirely made-up person, was claimed to be a Polish Communist revolutionary who was an associate of Ernest Hemingway. The article was published for 15 months and referenced in seventeen other articles before the hoax was uncovered.[30][31] The hoax article was written by a group of Polish Wikipedia editors calling themselves the "Batuta Army". One of the group's members, who called himself "Marek", told The Observer that they had created the hoax article in order to draw attention to the ongoing use of the names of Soviet officials for streets and other public areas in Poland. Marek stated that "Many of these people were traitors and murderers who do not deserve such an honor".[30]
  • March 2006 – Daniel Brandt found 142 instances of plagiarism on Wikipedia, arguing that the problem plagued the site.[32]
  • Early to mid-2006 – A series of U.S. Congressional staff edits to Wikipedia were revealed in the press. These mostly involved various political aides trying to whitewash Wikipedia biographies of several politicians by removing undesirable information (including pejorative statements quoted, or broken campaign promises), adding favorable information or "glowing" tributes, or by replacing articles in part or whole by staff-authored biographies. The staff of at least five politicians were implicated: Marty Meehan, Norm Coleman, Conrad Burns, Joe Biden and Gil Gutknecht.[33] In a separate but similar incident the campaign manager for Cathy Cox, Morton Brilliant, resigned after being found to have added negative information to the Wikipedia entries of political opponents.[34]
  • July 2006MyWikiBiz was founded by Gregory Kohs and his sister to provide paid editing services on Wikipedia.[35] Although Kohs, after some research, concluded that there were no Wikipedia policies forbidding this activity, his Wikipedia account was blocked shortly after the August publication of a press release announcing the establishment of the business. The salient Wikipedia policies were soon edited to regulate the kinds of activities in which MyWikiBiz was engaging. Jimmy Wales defended this decision and the permanent exclusion of Kohs from Wikipedia, even as he acknowledged that surreptitious paid editing continually occurred, saying that "[i]t's one thing to acknowledge there's always going to be a little of this, but another to say, 'Bring it on.'"[36][37]


  • January 2007
    • In January 2007, English-language Wikipedians in Qatar were briefly blocked from editing by an administrator, following a spate of vandalism, since they did not realize that the entire country's internet traffic is routed through a single IP address.[38] Both TechCrunch and Slashdot reported that Wikipedia had banned all of Qatar from the site, a claim that was promptly denied by co-founder Jimmy Wales.[39]
    • It was revealed that Microsoft had paid programmer Rick Jelliffe to edit Wikipedia articles about Microsoft products.[40] In particular, Microsoft paid Jelliffe to edit, among others, the article on Office Open XML.[41] A spokesman for Microsoft explained that the company thought the articles in question had been heavily biased by editors at Microsoft rival IBM and that having a seemingly independent editor add the material would make it more acceptable to other Wikipedia editors.[42]
  • February 2007
    • On February 13, 2007, American professional golfer Fuzzy Zoeller sued the Miami foreign-credential evaluation firm of Josef Silny & Associates. The lawsuit alleged that defamatory statements had been edited into the Wikipedia article about Zoeller in December 2006 by someone using a computer at that firm.[43][44]
    • Barbara Bauer sued the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the Wikipedia website,[45] claiming that information on Wikipedia critical of her abilities as a literary agent harmed her business. The Electronic Frontier Foundation defended Wikipedia[46] and the case was dismissed in July 2008.[47]
    • On February 17, 2007, Taner Akçam, one of the first Turkish academics to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, was detained in Canada at the airport in Montreal for nearly four hours after arriving on a flight from the United States.[48] Taner Akçam said that Canadian authorities had justified this detainment using a libelous Wikipedia article on Akçam from around December 24, 2006 as evidence. The article had allegedly been persistently vandalized by anonymous contributors intent on labeling Akçam as a terrorist. In response to Akçam's account of his border encounter, Jimmy Wales said the website contributors "deeply regret every error".[48][49]
The Wikipedia administrator Essjay, whose claims about his identity and credentials were the subject of a New Yorker editorial in 2007
  • March 2007 – The Essjay controversy was sparked when The New Yorker magazine issued a rare editorial correction saying that a prominent English Wikipedia editor and administrator known as "Essjay", whom they had interviewed and described in a July 2006 article as a "tenured professor of religion at a private university" who held a "Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law", was in fact a 24-year-old who held no advanced degrees.[3][4][50] Essjay had invented a completely false identity for his pseudonymous participation in Wikipedia.[3][4][50] In January 2007, however, Essjay became a Wikia employee and divulged his real name, Ryan Jordan; this was noticed by Daniel Brandt of Wikipedia Watch, who communicated Essjay's identity to The New Yorker.[3][51] Jordan held trusted volunteer positions within Wikipedia known as "administrator", "bureaucrat", "checkuser", "arbitrator", and "mediator".[3] Responding to the controversy, Jimmy Wales stated that he viewed Essjay's made-up persona like a pseudonym and did not really have a problem with it: "Essjay has always been, and still is, a fantastic editor and trusted member of the community ... He has been thoughtful and contrite about the entire matter, and I consider it settled."[3] The incident caused wide-ranging debates in the Wikipedia community, and saw Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger challenge Wales: "Jimmy, to call yourself a tenured professor, when you aren't one, is not a 'pseudonym'. It's identity fraud. And the full question is not why you appointed Essjay to ArbCom, but: why did you ignore the obvious moral implications of the fact that he had fraudulently pretended to be a professor – ignoring those implications even to the point of giving him a job and appointing him to ArbCom – until now?"[3] As a result of the controversy, Wales eventually invited Jordan to relinquish his responsibilities on Wikipedia, which he did; Jordan also quit his job at Wikia.[51]
Canadian wrestler Chris Benoit


A 17th-century copy of a 14th-century Persian manuscript image of Muhammad prohibiting Nasi', one of the depictions of Muhammad which raised objections
  • February 2008 – A group of Muslims started an online petition demanding that Wikipedia remove images of the Islamic prophet Muhammad from Wikipedia articles about him since most followers of Islam believe that such images violate the precepts of the religion.[94] Protesters also organized an email campaign to pressure the English Wikipedia into removing the offending images.[95] By February 7, approximately 100,000 people had signed the petition and the article had been protected from editing by non-registered users. Jay Walsh, Wikimedia Foundation spokesman, told Information Week that "Noncensorship is an important tenet of the user community and the editing community" and Mathias Schindler, of Wikimedia Deutschland, said in response to efforts to have the images removed from the German language Wikipedia that "Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a venue for an inter-Muslim debate."[96]
  • March 2008
    • Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales used Wikipedia to end a relationship he was having with conservative political columnist, television commentator and university lecturer Rachel Marsden, by adding a single sentence to his own Wikipedia user page stating "I am no longer involved with Rachel Marsden."[97] This was interpreted as a wider Wikipedia controversy because of the suggestion (from released private chat logs purportedly between Marsden and Wales) that Wales had previously edited Marsden's biographical article on Wikipedia, at the request of Marsden (before they were romantically involved).[98]
    • Jimmy Wales was accused by former Wikimedia Foundation employee Danny Wool of misusing the foundation's funds for recreational purposes. Wool also stated that Wales had his Wikimedia credit card taken away in part because of his spending habits, a claim Wales denied.[99] Then-chairperson of the foundation Florence Devouard and former foundation interim Executive Director Brad Patrick denied any wrongdoing by Wales or the foundation, saying that Wales accounted for every expense and that, for items for which he lacked receipts, he paid out of his own pocket; in private, Devouard upbraided Wales for "constantly trying to rewrite the past".[100]
    • It was claimed by Jeffrey Vernon Merkey that Wales had edited Merkey's Wikipedia entry to make it more favorable in return for donations to the Wikimedia Foundation, an allegation Wales dismissed as "nonsense".[101][102]
  • May 2008 – A long-running dispute between members of the Church of Scientology and Wikipedia editors reached Wikipedia's arbitration committee. The church members were accused of attempting to sway articles in the church's interests, while other editors were accused of the opposite. The arbitration committee unanimously voted to block all edits from the IP addresses associated with the church; several Scientology critics were banned too.[103]
  • June 2008
    • In 2007, Jim Prentice, then member of the Parliament of Canada for Calgary Centre-North and Minister of Industry, introduced copyright protection legislation, which was compared by many to the DMCA.[104] The legislation was controversial and Prentice withdrew it in December 2007.[105] By June 2008 there was a great deal of speculation in the Canadian press that Prentice would eventually succeed Stephen Harper as Prime Minister of Canada.[106] Michael Geist, professor of internet law at the University of Ottawa, discovered that a series of anonymous edits to Prentice's Wikipedia article had been made in late May and early June from an IP address owned by Industry Canada, Prentice's ministry. The modifications removed critical mentions of Prentice's involvement with the copyright legislation and added generic positive claims about the minister.[107] Geist announced on his blog his findings about the modifications, which one Canadian commentator called "hagiographic palaver extolling Prentice".[104][106]
    • Australian press stated that American law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft had threatened the Wikimedia Foundation on behalf of then-Telstra-CEO Solomon Trujillo.[108] The letter allegedly contained: "If Wikipedia and Wikimedia do not remove the improper language by that time (7pm on March 7), and take the steps necessary to block its being reinserted, Mr (Trujillo) intends to commence litigation ..."[109] and reportedly demanded that the editor responsible for the defamatory material be blocked.[108] Jimmy Wales denied that any such threat had been received, stating that "It is sad to see a media so irresponsible as to make it seem that Wikipedia would cave to a few lawyers letters objecting to legitimate criticism. It is even sadder to see Mr Trujillo attacked by that same irresponsible media for something he did not do."[110]
  • August 2008Republican senator and then presidential candidate John McCain was accused of plagiarizing from Wikipedia some elements of a speech he gave about the Republic of Georgia. The Congressional Quarterly found that McCain's speech contained two passages which were substantially identical to passages in the Wikipedia article on the country and that a third passage "bore striking resemblances."[111] McCain's speech was written by speechwriters rather than by the candidate himself. After the Congressional Quarterly's report was released, McCain's aides released a statement that contained: "there are only so many ways to state basic historical facts and dates and that any similarities to Wikipedia were only coincidental".[112]
Reporter David Rohde in 2011, three years after information about his capture by the Taliban was controversially removed from Wikipedia
  • November 2008New York Times reporter David Rohde was kidnapped by the Taliban while reporting in Afghanistan. The Times feared that reporting of the matter would endanger Rohde's life, so they did not mention it in their pages.[2] Statements about Rohde's kidnapping were edited into Wikipedia during the voluntary news blackout, however. Representatives of the Times called Jimmy Wales and asked him to suppress the information. He agreed to take care of it, but in order to avoid the scrutiny which attends his edits to Wikipedia, Wales asked an unnamed administrator on the site to delete the information instead.[113] Wales told Times media reporter Richard Pérez-Peña, "We were really helped by the fact that it hadn't appeared in a place we would regard as a reliable source. I would have had a really hard time with it if it had."[114] The Christian Science Monitor reported that Wales's actions were the subject of much criticism from bloggers and journalists, who argued that information suppression undermined the credibility of Wikipedia.[114]
  • December 2008
    • In early December, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) added the Wikipedia page about the album Virgin Killer to its blacklist of online material potentially illegal in the United Kingdom because it contains an image of a naked prepubescent girl.[115] The IWF's blacklist is voluntarily enforced by 95% of British internet service providers. The issue eventually left most British residents unable to edit any page on Wikipedia.[116] The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) protested the blacklisting of the page even though, as the IWF stated at the time, "the image in question is potentially in breach of the Protection of Children Act 1978", and, in an "unprecedented" move, the IWF agreed to remove the page from its blacklist.[117]
    • Professor T. Mills Kelly conducted a class project on "Lying About the Past", which resulted in the Edward Owens hoax. A biography was created about "Edward Owens" who was claimed to be an oyster fisherman that became a pirate during the period of the Long Depression, targeting ships in the Chesapeake Bay. It was revealed when media outlets began reporting the story as fact.[118][119]


  • January 2009 – The Wikipedia articles for United States senators Robert Byrd and Edward Kennedy were briefly changed to state, incorrectly, that they had died.[120][121]
  • February 2009Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern created Wikipedia Art,[122] a performance art piece as a live article on Wikipedia. It was deleted 15 hours later as a violation of Wikipedia rules. The Wikimedia Foundation subsequently claimed that the domain name infringed on its trademark.[123] The ensuing controversy was reported in the national press.[124] Wikipedia Art has since been included in the Internet Pavilion of the Venice Biennale for 2009.[125] It also appeared in a revised form at the Transmediale festival in Berlin in 2011.[126]
  • March 2009 – Hours after the death of French composer Maurice Jarre, someone added a phony quote to Jarre's Wikipedia article: "One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head, that only I can hear."[127] The quote then appeared in obituaries of Jarre published in newspapers around the world.[128][2]
  • May 2009 – Wikipedian David Boothroyd, a UK Labour Party member, created controversy in 2009, when Wikipedia Review contributor "Tarantino" discovered that he committed sockpuppeting, editing under the accounts "Dbiv", "Fys" and "Sam Blacketer", none of which acknowledged his real identity. After earning Administrator status with one account, then losing it for inappropriate use of the administrative tools,[citation needed] Boothroyd regained Administrator status with the "Sam Blacketer" sockpuppet account in April 2007.[129] Later in 2007, Boothroyd's Sam Blacketer account became part of the English Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee.[130] Under the Sam Blacketer account, Boothroyd edited many articles related to United Kingdom politics, including that of rival Conservative Party leader David Cameron.[131] Boothroyd then resigned as an administrator[132] and as an arbitrator.[133]
Several psychologists strongly objected to displaying images of the 10 Rorschach test inkblots in June 2009.
  • June 2009
    • Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, was accused by the Virginia Quarterly Review of plagiarizing material for his book Free: The Future of a Radical Price from Wikipedia.[134] Anderson claimed that he had originally attributed the material properly but that due to disagreements with his publisher over formatting it had ended up in the published work without quotation marks. He took responsibility for the error, saying "That's my screw-up."[135] Anderson announced that the attribution errors would be corrected in the online version of the book and in future publications.[136] Anderson's book is not a defense of the notion of free information as exemplified by Wikipedia, but of the notion of zero-price digital works.[137] However, due to confusion over the concept of free as in freedom versus free as in zero monetary cost (although both concepts apply to Wikipedia), the fact that he plagiarized material for it was seen by at least one commentator as "riddled with savage irony."[135]
    • James Heilman, a Canadian doctor, uploaded to Wikipedia copies of all 10 inkblot images used in the Rorschach test, on the grounds that copyright to the images had expired.[138] Heilman was widely criticized by psychologists who used the test as a diagnostic tool, because they were worried that patients with prior knowledge of the inkblots would be able to influence their diagnoses. In response to Heilman's posting of the images, a number of psychologists registered Wikipedia accounts to argue against their retention.[139] Later that year two psychologists filed a complaint against Heilman with the Saskatchewan medical licensing board, arguing that his uploading of the images constituted unprofessional behavior.[140]
  • July 2009 – The National Portrait Gallery in London issued a cease and desist letter for alleged breach of copyright against a Wikipedia editor who downloaded more than 3,000 high-resolution images from the gallery's website to upload them to Wikimedia Commons.[141][142][143][144]
  • November 2009 – Convicted German murderers Wolfgang Werlé and Manfred Lauber sued the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) in German courts, demanding that their names be removed from the English Wikipedia's article on their victim, Walter Sedlmayr.[145] German laws force compliance with such requests for suppression.[146] Alexander H. Stopp, the two men's lawyer, succeeded in forcing the German Wikipedia to remove their names. Mike Godwin responded on behalf of the WMF, stating that the organization "doesn't edit content at all, unless we get a court order from a court of competent jurisdiction. [I]f our German editors have chosen to remove the names of the murderers from their article on Walter Sedlmayr, we support them in that choice. The English-language editors have chosen to include the names of the killers, and we support them in that choice."[147]
  • December 2009 – Actor Ron Livingston, star of the 1999 film Office Space, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against a John Doe who had repeatedly edited Livingston's Wikipedia article to include statements that Livingston was gay and in a relationship with a (possibly notional) man named Lee Dennison.[148] The lawsuit also claimed that the John Doe defendant had set up phony Facebook profiles for Livingston and his putative partner.[149] The suit named neither Wikipedia nor Facebook, but was evidently intended to give Livingston the power to subpoena identifying information from the two organizations about the anonymous defendant.[150] The lawsuit was followed by a manifestation of the Streisand effect as Livingston was targeted with accusations of homophobia. Jay Walsh, then head of communication for the Wikimedia Foundation, said that "This is a serious issue. We take it quite seriously. We understand real people are reflected in these articles. ... Articles about living people are tough articles to manage. Someone who is a fan or an enemy might try to attack or vandalize those articles. This isn't a new scenario for us to witness."[151]



The observation decks and spire of the Donauturm
  • April 2010 and before – One of the largest disputes in the German Wikipedia about a simple sentence was about the Donauturm in Vienna.[tone][152] While the observation tower shares some architectural aspects with the Fernsehturm Stuttgart, it was never planned for TV broadcasting purposes. The German Wikipedia went through an approximately 600,000-character discussion about the suitable title and category. Some (often Austrian) authors denied the description of Donauturm as a "TV tower", which was defended by others.[152] The Spiegel coverage of the issue cited a participant with "On good days, Wikipedia is better than any TV soap".[152]
  • April 2010 – Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger informed the FBI that a large amount of child pornography was available on Wikimedia Commons. Sanger told Fox News: "I wasn't shocked that it was online, but I was shocked that it was on a Wikimedia Foundation site that purports to be a reference site."[153] Co-founder Jimmy Wales responded by claiming that a strong statement from the Wikimedia Foundation would be forthcoming.[154] In the weeks following Sanger's letter, Wales responded by unilaterally deleting a number of images which he personally deemed to be pornographic. Wales's unilateral actions led to an outcry from the Wikipedian community, which in turn prompted Wales to voluntarily relinquish some of his user privileges.[155]
  • July 2010 – Following the football World Cup, the FIFA president Sepp Blatter was awarded the Order of the Companions of O. R. Tambo for his contribution over the World Cup. The South African Government's webpage announcing the award referred to him as Joseph Sepp Bellend Blatter, the nickname having been taken from his vandalized Wikipedia article.[156] "Bellend" is a British slang term for the tip of the penis.[157]
  • August 2010 – After the Federal Bureau of Investigation requested that Wikipedia remove the FBI seal from Wikipedia (on grounds that the high-resolution graphic could facilitate creation of fake FBI badges) Wikimedia Foundation lawyer Mike Godwin sent a letter to the Bureau, denying their request and contending that the FBI had misinterpreted the law.[158][159]
  • September 2010 – Right-wing radio presenter Rush Limbaugh broadcast a discussion of an upcoming hearing in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida courtroom of judge Roger Vinson of the case Florida et al v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the cases brought by U.S. states challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).[160] Limbaugh told his audience that Vinson had previously killed three brown bears and mounted their heads over the door of his courtroom in order, according to Limbaugh, to "instill the fear of God into the accused."[161] This, stated Limbaugh, "would not be good news" for supporters of Obamacare. However, the story was not only false, but had been edited into Vinson's Wikipedia article a scant few days before the broadcast.[162] The bear-hunting information inserted into the Wikipedia article was sourced to a nonexistent story in the Pensacola News Journal. A spokesman for Limbaugh told the New York Times that a researcher for Limbaugh's show had found the information on the News Journal website, but that newspaper's managing editor told the Times that no such information had ever been published there.[161]


In September 2011, controversy arose when British writer and journalist Johann Hari admitted using Wikipedia to attack his opponents by editing the articles about them and inserting fabrications.[163][164]
  • June 2011
    • Potential candidate for U.S. Vice President Sarah Palin described American Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere as "he who warned the British that they weren't going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells."[165] This description, characterized by U.S. News & World Report (USN&WR) as "flummoxed ramblings",[166] kicked off a battle over the contents of the English Wikipedia's article about Revere.[167] Palin's remarks and various interpretations were added by Palin supporters to the Revere Wikipedia page and just as quickly removed by detractors, although at least one commentator opined that "in some cases people appeared to be attributing the claims to Ms. Palin in order to mock her."[168] In the 10 days following Palin's remark, Revere's Wikipedia page received over a half million page views and led to extensive and inconclusive discussion on the article's talk page and in the national media about whether the episode had improved or harmed the article.[165] Robert Schlesinger, writing in USN&WR, summarized the episode by saying that "[i]t used to be said of conservatism that it stood athwart history and yelled 'stop.' Increasingly it seems to stand beside reality while hitting the 'edit' button."[167]
    • PR Week reported on a 'fixer', an unnamed London-based figure in the PR industry who offered his services to 'cleanse' Wikipedia articles for clients. Wikipedia entries this person was accused of changing included Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross, Von Essen Group chairman Andrew Davis, British property developer David Rowland, billionaire Saudi tycoon Maan Al-Sanea, and Edward Stanley, 19th Earl of Derby. According to PR Week, 42 edits were made from the same IP address, most of them removing negative or controversial information, or adding positive information.[169][170]
  • September 2011 – British writer and journalist Johann Hari admitted using Wikipedia to attack his opponents[163] by editing the online encyclopedia's articles about them under a pseudonym.[164] Using a sockpuppet, Hari engaged in a six-year trolling spree where he would repeatedly paint himself in a flattering light while also inserting fabrications in the entries for people he considered enemies, such as Francis Wheen, Nick Cohen, Niall Ferguson, and Cristina Odone,[171] who he falsely said had been fired from her job at The Catholic Herald. Odone also suspects Hari of having made anonymous edits calling her an antisemite.[172]
  • November 2011 – After the South African government passed the Protection of State Information Bill, a law which criminalized certain forms of speech in the country, the Wikipedia article about the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party was altered in protest.[173] The protesters deleted phrases on the page which were critical of the ANC, presumably suggesting that they would be illegal under the new law.[174] This was denied by ANC spokesman Keith Khoza, who stated that the edits were "conduct ... not consistent with a civilised society."[173]


Historian Timothy Messer-Kruse's experiences editing the article about Chicago's Haymarket Affair sparked debate over the role of truth, rather than "verifiability", on Wikipedia.
  • January 2012
    • British MP Tom Watson discovered that Portland Communications had been removing the nickname of one of its clients' products ("Wife Beater", referring to Anheuser-Busch InBev's Stella Artois beer) from Wikipedia. Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) CEO Jane Wilson noted, "Stella Artois is on the 'wife-beater' page because it is a nick-name in common currency for that brand of strong continental lager. The brand managers who want to change this have a wider reputational issue to address, editing the term from a Wikipedia page will not get rid of this association."[175] Other edits from Portland's offices included changes to articles about another Portland client, Kazakhstan's BTA Bank, and its former head Mukhtar Ablyazov. Portland did not deny making the changes, arguing they had been done transparently and in accordance with Wikipedia's policies.[176] Portland Communications welcomed CIPR's subsequent announcement of a collaboration with Wikipedia and invited Jimmy Wales to speak to their company, as he did at Bell Pottinger.[177] Tom Watson was optimistic about the collaboration: "PR professionals need clear guidelines in this new world of online-information-sharing. That's why I am delighted that interested parties are coming together to establish a clear code of conduct."[178]
    • During the 2008 U.S. presidential race, changes made by both Barack Obama's and John McCain's campaigns to their Wikipedia pages made the news.[179]
  • February 2012 – American labor historian Timothy Messer-Kruse, an expert on the Haymarket affair, published an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education describing his three-year struggle to edit the Wikipedia article on the subject.[180] Messer-Kruse had discovered new primary sources which, in his professional opinion, cast doubt on the conventional view of the incident. In 2009, when he first tried to edit the article to include the new information, he was told by other editors that primary sources were not acceptable and that he would have to find published secondary sources.[181] As he later said on NPR, "So I actually bided my time. I knew that my own published book would be coming out in 2011."[182] When his book was published and he returned to insert his newly discovered material into the article, he was told that it was a minority view and could not be given "undue weight", even though he had proved in his book that the majority view was incorrect regarding major details of the case.[183] Steven Walling of the Wikimedia Foundation told a NPR reporter that all of Wikipedia's rules had been followed, stating that "We do not rely on what exact, individual people say, just based on their own credibility."[184] National security scholars Benjamin Wittes and Stephanie Leutert have used Messer-Kruse's experiences to illuminate the "broad question" of "whether Wikipedia's policies are encouraging an undue conservatism about sourcing."[181]
  • March 2012 – The Bureau of Investigative Journalism uncovered that UK MPs or their staff had made almost 10,000 edits to the encyclopedia, and that the Wikipedia articles of almost one in six MPs had been edited from within Parliament.[185] Many of the changes dealt with removing unflattering details from Wikipedia during the 2009 expenses scandal, as well as other controversial issues.[186] British politician Joan Ryan admitted to changing her entry "whenever there's misleading or untruthful information [that has] been placed on it."[186] Clare Short said her staff were "angry and protective" over mistakes and criticisms in her Wikipedia article and acknowledged they might have made changes to it.[186] Labour MP Fabian Hamilton also reported having one of his assistants edit a page to make it more accurate in his view. MP Philip Davies denied making changes about removing controversial comments related to Muslims from 2006 and 2007.[186]
Attempts to delete an article about the wedding dress of Kate Middleton led to a controversy on the English Wikipedia[187] and the issue received some press coverage.[188][189]
  • July 2012
  • September 2012
    • Author Philip Roth published an open letter to Wikipedia, describing conflicts he experienced with the Wikipedia community while attempting to modify the Wikipedia article about his novel The Human Stain: although the character Coleman Silk had been inspired by the case of Melvin Tumin, many literary critics had drawn parallels between Silk and the life of Anatole Broyard, and Roth sought to remove statements that Broyard had been suggested as an inspiration; however, Roth's edits had been reverted on the grounds that direct statements from the author were a primary source, not a secondary.[194] Wikipedia administrator and community liaison Oliver Keyes subsequently wrote a blog post criticizing both Roth and his approach, and pointed out that even prior to Roth's attempts to modify the article, it had already cited a published interview in which Roth stated that the inspiration for Coleman Silk had been Tumin rather than Broyard. Keyes also pointed out that the edits had been made via an anonymous IP address, with no evidence provided to support the claim that Roth was actually involved.[195]
    • The Gibraltarpedia project, where editors created articles about Gibraltar,[196] came under scrutiny due to concerns about Roger Bamkin, a Wikimedia UK board member who was head of the project, having a professional relationship with the government of Gibraltar in connection with Gibraltarpedia. Of primary concern was that the site's main page "Did You Know" section was allegedly being used for the promotional purposes of Bamkin's clients.[5][6] Bamkin, under pressure, resigned from the board.[5]
  • October 2012 – Asian soccer's governing body was forced to apologize to the United Arab Emirates soccer team for referring to them as the "Sand Monkeys"; the spurious nickname had been taken from a vandalized Wikipedia article.[197][198][199]
  • November 2012Lord Justice Leveson wrote in his report on British press standards, "The Independent was founded in 1986 by the journalists Andreas Whittam Smith, Stephen Glover and Brett Straub ..." He had used the Wikipedia article for The Independent newspaper as his source, but an act of vandalism had replaced Matthew Symonds (a genuine co-founder) with Brett Straub (an unknown character).[200] The Economist said of the Leveson report, "Parts of it are a scissors-and-paste job culled from Wikipedia."[201]
Jimmy Wales's relationship to Tony and Cherie Blair came into question in December 2012 amid discussion of their connections with the Kazakh government.
  • December 2012 – A discussion took place on the Wikipedia user talk page of Jimmy Wales about his connection with the Republic of Kazakhstan WikiBilim organization and the repressive government of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Wales unilaterally shut down the conversation when other Wikipedia editors questioned him about his friendship with Tony Blair, whose company provides paid consultancy services to the Kazakh government. Wales stated that the line of questioning was "just totally weird and irrelevant" and told Andreas Kolbe, a moderator at Wikipediocracy who edits Wikipedia under the username "Jayen466": "please stay off my talk page."[202][203]


  • January 2013
    • The discovery of a hoax article on the "Bicholim conflict" caused widespread press coverage.[204][205] The article, a meticulously crafted but completely made-up description of a fictitious war in Indian Goa, had been listed as a "good article" – a quality award given to fewer than 1 percent of all articles on the English Wikipedia – for more than five years.[204]
    • Wikipedia editors engaged in a protracted debate for nearly two months concerning whether to capitalize the "I" in the title of the Wikipedia article on the film Star Trek Into Darkness, with some arguing that the title should be written as Star Trek into Darkness. The styling conflict, which spanned over 40,000 words on the article's talk page, mostly centered around the fact that there was no colon in the title,[206] as there had been in every previous Star Trek film, throwing into relief the question of whether "Into Darkness" was a subtitle. The conflict received coverage in various media outlets who noted the conflict's pedantry and meaninglessness, with cartoonist Randall Munroe in particular writing a comic strip on xkcd in which an editor resolves the conflict by writing the title as StAr TrEk InTo DaRkNeSs. The conflict was eventually resolved in favor of capitalizing the "I", reflecting the consensus of primary and secondary sources.[207][208]
  • February 2013 – Prison company GEO Group received media coverage when a Wikipedia editor using the name "Abraham Cohen" (who was, at the time, also GEO Group's Manager of Corporate Relations) edited the company's entry to remove information on its past controversies, following the announcement that it had obtained naming rights to Florida Atlantic University's new stadium.[209][210]
  • March 2013 – Controversy arose in March 2013 after it emerged that large segments of the BP article had originated from a corporate employee who was a Wikipedia editor.[211][212]
  • April 2013
    • The French-language Wikipedia article Station hertzienne militaire de Pierre-sur-Haute, about a military radio station, attracted attention from the French interior intelligence agency DCRI. The agency attempted to have the article about the facility removed from the French-language Wikipedia. After a request for deletion in March 2013, the Wikimedia Foundation had asked the DCRI which parts of the article were causing a problem, noting that the article closely reflected information in a 2004 documentary made by Télévision Loire 7, a French local television station, which is freely available online and had been made with the cooperation of the French Air Force.[213][214] The DCRI refused to give these details, and repeated its demand for deletion of the article. The DCRI then pressured Rémi Mathis, a volunteer administrator of the French-language Wikipedia, and president of Wikimedia France, into deleting the article[213][215] by threatening him with arrest. Later, the article was restored by another Wikipedia contributor living in Switzerland.[216][217] As a result of the controversy, the article temporarily became the most read page on the French Wikipedia,[218] with more than 120,000 page views during the weekend of April 6/7, 2013.[219] For his role in the controversy, Mathis was named Wikipedian of the Year by Jimmy Wales at Wikimania 2013.[220]
    • It was confirmed by a spokesperson for the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media that Wikipedia had been blacklisted over the Russian Wikipedia's article about cannabis smoking.[221] Being placed on the blacklist gives the operator 24 hours to remove the offending material. If the website owner refuses to remove the material then either the website host or the network operator will be required to block access to the site in Russia.[222] The New York Times had reported in March that Russia had begun to "selectively" block internet content that the government considered either illegal under Russian law or otherwise harmful to children.[223]
    • The Sun alleged that Labour Party MP Chuka Umunna, in 2007 before his election, used the Wikipedia username "Socialdemocrat", to create and repeatedly edit his own Wikipedia page.[224] Umunna told The Daily Telegraph that he did not alter his own Wikipedia page, but the paper quoted what they called "sources close to Umunna" as having told the newspaper that "it was possible that one of his campaign team in 2007, when he was trying to be selected to be Labour's candidate for Streatham in the 2010 general election, set up the page."[225] On April 11, 2013, the Evening Standard alleged that an edit in January 2008 was made on a computer at the law firm at which he then worked. Umunna said that he had "no recollection" of doing so.[226]
    • An edit war on the Wikipedia article of Canadian politician and leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in British Columbia, Adrian Dix, was widely reported in the Canadian press. Dix, while employed by Glen Clark, then premier of British Columbia, had falsified a memo[227] related to a scandal involving casinos in which Clark was implicated, leading to Dix being fired from his post.[228] The Wikipedia editor who led the effort to keep mention of the incident out of Dix's article was identified by Global News and the Vancouver Sun as Mike Cleven, who edits Wikipedia under the username Skookum1.[229] Cleven denied that he was associated with the NDP,[227] stating that "I am the editor who's spent the most energy on keeping the people pushing an inflammatory and undue-weight account of this. Whitewashing the article to prevent mention of this is not the aim here, it is to prevent articles being used for defamatory purposes ... the BC Liberals have pulled this kind of crap on Wikipedia before; they can say it's not them, sure uh-huh, but the agenda of those claiming NOT to be them is too much like theirs to be worth explaining further."[229]
    • Writer Amanda Filipacchi wrote an April 2013 op-ed in The New York Times criticizing the Wikipedia category "American Women Novelists".
      Amanda Filipacchi wrote an op-ed for The New York Times on April 24, 2013, titled "Wikipedia's Sexism Toward Female Novelists", in which she noted that "editors have begun the process of moving women, one by one, alphabetically, from the 'American Novelists' category to the 'American Women Novelists' subcategory." She suggested the reason for the move might be to create a male-only list of 'American Novelists' on Wikipedia.[230] The story was picked up by many other newspapers and websites and feminists said in response that they were disappointed and shocked by the action.[231] Wikipedia editors initiated various responses soon after Filipacchi's article appeared, including the creation of a category for 'American men novelists' along with an immediate proposal to merge both categories back into the original 'American novelists' category.[232] The 'American men novelists' category was criticized because the two categories together would have the effect of emptying the 'American novelists' category.[233] When the 'American men novelists' category was first created, its only entries were Orson Scott Card and P. D. Cacek (who is female).[234] A few days after the op-ed, Filipacchi wrote in the New York Times Sunday Review about the reaction to it, which included edits to the Wikipedia article about her that she suggested were retaliatory.[235] In an article in The Atlantic responding to accounts that the edits she had initially complained of were the work of one rogue editor, Filipacchi detailed edit histories identifying seven other editors who had individually or collectively performed the same actions.[236] Andrew Leonard, reporting for, found that Filipacchi's articles were followed by what he called "revenge editing" on her article and articles related to her, including that of her father, Daniel Filipacchi. Leonard quoted extensively from talk page comments of Wikipedia editor Qworty, who, e.g., wrote on the talk page of Filipacchi's article: "Oh, by all means, let's be intimidated by the Holy New York Times. Because when the New York Times tells you to shut up, you have to shut up. Because that's the way 'freedom' works, and the NYT is all about promoting freedom all over the world, which is why they employed Judith Miller."[237]
Andrew Leonard poses in front of a Wikipedia page about him, the creation of which was inspired by his reporting on "revenge editor" Robert Clark Young.[238]

  • May 2013Andrew Leonard, writing in, revealed Wikipedia editor Qworty's real life identity to be Robert Clark Young, a novelist and writer. Qworty first drew attention to himself through his "revenge editing" on the Wikipedia article of novelist and Wikipedia critic Amanda Filipacchi. Young routinely made negative revisions to the pages of authors with whom he disagreed. Leonard was aided in his investigation by members of Wikipedia criticism site Wikipediocracy.[239] According to Washington Monthly columnist Kathleen Geier, "The Qworty case reveals the Achilles' heel of the Wikipedia project. Anyone possessing enough time and resources, and who is obsessed enough, can post information on the site that is false, misleading, or extremely biased."[240] Shortly after the publication of Leonard's article, Qworty/Young was indefinitely blocked from editing Wikipedia[239] and a sockpuppet investigation was opened in order to determine the extent of Young's editing with multiple accounts.[241][242] Writing about the episode on his talk page, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales quoted Leonard's original article: "For those of us who love Wikipedia, the ramifications of the Qworty saga are not comforting."[239] and went on to write that "That sums it up for me. More thoughts soon. I would have banned him outright years ago. So would many others. That we did not, points to serious deficiencies in our systems."[241] Leonard's continued investigations into Young's editing revealed a years-long crusade against articles about topics and people related to modern Paganism. Leonard reported that one of the pagans whose article Young had nominated for deletion in 2012 nominated Young's article, in an act of revenge, for deletion after Young's revenge editing came to light. However, the pagan editor told Leonard "that he was unlikely to be successful in getting Young's page deleted, because Salon's series of articles on the Qworty affair had enshrined the entire saga as a notable moment in Wikipedia history."[243] The Robert Clark Young article was, however, deleted in January 2017.
  • June 2013Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, asked other editors to post their suspicions about Edward Snowden's activities on Wikipedia to Wales' talk page, arguably violating Wikipedia's strict "outing" policy. No evidence of Snowden's editing was uncovered.[244][245][246][247][248][249]
  • August 2013 – On August 22, 2013, Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning announced her intention to transition. Shortly thereafter, Manning's Wikipedia page was moved from "Bradley Manning" to "Chelsea Manning", and the page was rewritten to reflect Manning's female name and gender "with remarkably little controversy"[250] at first. Within a day, however, a long move request had begun which found no consensus for the move, resulting in the page being returned to "Bradley Manning" until a second long move request in October found consensus that it should indeed be "Chelsea Manning". The same month (October), Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee heard a case about the disputes about the article, which resulted in several editors being topic-banned from editing transgender-related pages for either making transphobic remarks or accusing others of making such remarks. This led Trans Media Watch to criticize the committee for implying that accusations of transphobia were as bad as actual transphobia.[251]
  • September 2013
    • Lawyer Susan L. Burke who had represented Iraqi civilians against the private military company Blackwater Inc. (now known as Academi) sued to discover the identity of two Wikipedia editors who allegedly inserted misleading information into the Wikipedia article about her and who she alleged were associates of Blackwater Inc.[252]
    • Croatian newspapers reported that the Croatian Wikipedia had been taken over by "a clique of fascists" who were rewriting Croatian history and promoting anti-Serb sentiment. The Croatian Minister of Education, Science, and Sport, Željko Jovanović, made a public statement saying that the country's students should not rely on the Croatian Wikipedia: "[W]e have to point out that much of the content in the Croatian version of Wikipedia is not only misleading but also clearly falsified."[253] In an interview with Croatian news agency HINA, Snježana Koren, a historian at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, judged the disputed articles "biased and malicious, partly even illiterate", adding that "These are the types of articles you can find on the pages of fringe organizations and movements" and expressing doubts on the ability of its authors to distinguish good from evil.[254]
  • October 2013
    • Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner expressed concerns that too much money from Wikipedia donations was flowing to the various Wikimedia chapters around the world, funding bureaucracy rather than benefiting the encyclopedia.[255] She also expressed concerns that Wikimedia's Funds Dissemination Committee process, being "dominated by fund-seekers, does not as currently constructed offer sufficient protection against log-rolling, self-dealing, and other corrupt practices."[256]
    • Rand Paul was accused of quoting Wikipedia in some of his speeches. Specifically, Jeremy Peters of The New York Times accused Paul of plagiarizing the Wikipedia article on the sci-fi film Gattaca when Paul was giving a speech about eugenics.[257] The Gattaca article was semi-protected soon after for a period of a week.[258]
    • An investigation by Wikipedians found that the Wiki-PR company had operated "an army" of sockpuppet accounts to edit Wikipedia on behalf of paying clients. The company's website claimed that its "staff of 45 Wikipedia editors and admins helps you build a page that stands up to the scrutiny of Wikipedia's community rules and guidelines."[8][9] The company's Twitter profile stated: "We write it. We manage it. You never worry about Wikipedia again."[9] The Wikimedia Foundation subsequently sent Wiki-PR a cease-and-desist letter.[259] After a Wikipedia sockpuppet investigation related to the company, more than 250 Wikipedia user accounts were blocked or banned.[260]
    • Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt made headlines in Australian media in an interview with the BBC World Service stating that he had "looked up what Wikipedia says about bushfires" and read there that bushfires were frequent events that had occurred in hotter months prior to European settlement. At the same time, meteorologists funded by the federal government,[261][262][263] other scientists[264] and politicians[265] expressed concerns that increasingly extreme fire and flood events are linked to scientifically accepted climate change. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Wikipedia's article about Hunt was edited to state that he uses Wikipedia for important policy research, and editing of the article was then disabled for new or unregistered users due to vandalism.[266]


  • January 2014
    • The Wikimedia Foundation announced that Program Evaluation Coordinator Sarah Stierch was "no longer an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation", after evidence was presented on a Wikimedia mailing list that she had been editing Wikipedia on behalf of paying clients, a practice the Wikimedia Foundation said was "frowned upon by many in the editing community and by the Wikimedia Foundation".[267][268]
    • The Wikipedia page about North Carolina state senator Jim Davis was edited to state, incorrectly, that he had died of a heart attack.[269]
    • There was concern that the Wikipedia article on the Hillsborough disaster had been vandalized with offensive comments posted from computers within various UK government departments.[270]
  • July 2014
    • The Daily Telegraph reported that IP addresses belonging to the Russian government had edited articles relating to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to remove claims that it helped provide the missile system used to shoot down the aircraft. Among the pages edited was the Russian Wikipedia's article listing of civil aviation incidents, to claim that "the plane [Flight MH17] was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers".[271]
    • The Wall Street Journal reported on a controversial article-writing program called Lsjbot that has created millions of articles on Swedish Wikipedia and several other language editions.[272]
    • The controversial monkey selfie
      The 5-year-old Amelia Bedelia Cameroon "accidental hoax" about Amelia Bedelia, main character of its eponymous popular children's book series, was revealed by journalist EJ Dickson. Dickson, who authored the fabricated statements with a friend when they were "stoned", only rediscovered the hoax after it had been propagated tens of times by blogs, journalists, academics, as well as Amelia Bedelia's current author, causing debate about Wikipedia, the usage made of it,[273] as well as responsibility regarding online sources in general.[274][275][276] After the hoax was identified, the IP address which had been used to insert it was banned from Wikipedia.[273]
  • August 2014 – Photographer David Slater sent a copyright takedown notice to the Wikimedia Commons over a photograph of a Celebes crested macaque taken on one of his cameras, which at the time was being operated by the macaque, resulting in a "monkey selfie". The Wikimedia Foundation dismissed the claims, asserting that the photograph, having been taken by a non-human animal, rather than Slater, is in the public domain per United States law.[277][278] Subsequently, a court in San Francisco ruled copyright protection could not be applied to the monkey and a University of Michigan law professor said "the original monkey selfie is in the public domain."[279]


  • January 2015The Guardian reported that the English Wikipedia Arbitration Committee had banned five editors deemed to be breaking the site's rules from gender-related articles amid the Gamergate controversy.[280] This gathered a response from outlets such as Gawker,[281] Inquisitr,[282] Think Progress,[283][284] The Mary Sue,[285] de Volkskrant,[286] and Wired Germany.[287] The accuracy of these reactions was promptly addressed by the committee, which had not yet released its final decision.[288] The Wikimedia Foundation also released a statement on its blog.[289] On January 28, the Arbitration Committee issued a final ruling in the GamerGate case, in which one longtime editor was banned from the site and other editors were prohibited from editing articles related to Gamergate or gender.[290]
  • February 2015 – Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee banned Wikipedia administrator Wifione after accusations that they had for years manipulated the Wikipedia article on the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, an unaccredited business school.[291][292][293] The Wikipedia page was used as a marketing tool by the school.[291] Indian journalist Maheswhar Peri said, "In my opinion, by letting this go on for so long, Wikipedia has messed up perhaps 15,000 students' lives."[291]
  • June 2015 – Wikipedia administrator "Chase me ladies, I'm the Cavalry", who in real life is Richard Symonds, a Liberal Democrat,[294] was stripped of his advanced permissions on English Wikipedia after the site's Arbitration Committee found that he improperly blocked the account "Contribsx" and attributed its edits to then Chairman of the Conservative Party Grant Shapps. The committee stated the account in question could not be connected to "any specific individual".[295]
  • September 2015 – Wikipedia was hit by the Orangemoody blackmail scandal, as it came to light that hundreds of businesses and minor celebrities had faced demands for payment from rogue editors to publish, protect or update Wikipedia articles on them.[296]
  • November 2015 – The Washington Examiner and several other outlets reported that editors associated with The Hunting Ground, a documentary on rape on college campuses, were discovered making edits to various Wikipedia articles "to make facts conform to the film."[297] In response, Jimmy Wales started a discussion on his talk page about people who edit when they have a conflict of interest (COI) "I have long advocated that we should deal much more quickly and much more severely with COI editors. The usual objections (from some quarters – I think most people agree with me) have to do with it being hard to detect them, but in this case, the COI was called out, warnings were issued, and nothing was done."[298]
James Heilman's dismissal from the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees exacerbated tensions between the Board and the Wikipedia editing community in December 2015.
  • December 2015 – The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees voted to remove board member James Heilman on December 28. Heilman was one of three members elected by the Wikipedia editing community in May of that year. The unclear circumstances of his dismissal led to a number of discussions critical of the Board, exacerbating long-standing tensions concerning its relationship with the community.[299][300] Heilman suggested that his internal inquiry to make the Knight Foundation grant public was a factor in his dismissal from the WMF's board of trustees.[301]


  • January 2016 – On January 5, the Wikimedia Foundation announced the addition of Arnnon Geshuri, vice president of human resources at Tesla Motors, to its board of directors.[302] The appointment was controversial among Wikipedia editors due to his prior role as senior director of human resources and staffing at Google, where he was involved with a "no cold call" arrangement between tech companies that ended with action by the Department of Justice.[303] Nearly 300 editors signed a vote of no confidence, urging his removal from the board.[304][305][306] On January 27, board president Patricio Lorente announced Geshuri would step down.[307]
  • February 2016 – On February 25, owing to pressures presented by a "community revolt", Wikimedia Foundation executive director Lila Tretikov resigned from the organization. Sources attributed the resignation largely to concerns that the organization's leadership was not being transparent enough with a proposal to develop a search engine, which was seen by many as being outside the remit of the non-profit educational charity.[308][309][310]


  • May 2018 – In May 2018, a Wikipedia user rejected a draft biography of Canadian laser physicist Donna Strickland. An entry only appeared after she jointly won a Nobel Prize for Physics in October 2018.[311][312][313]

  • May–June 2018 – News media reported about Philip Cross, a prolific editor who edited articles about left-leaning anti-war sites and activists. Cross also used Twitter, where he engaged with people critical of his editing, sometimes in a hostile manner, referring to one group of anti-war activists as "goons". British politician George Galloway complained about edits that Cross had made to his article. Various groups, including media backed by the Russian government offered a financial reward for the exposure of his real identity.[314][315][316][317] In July, Cross was banned from editing about post-1978 British politics by the Arbitration Committee.[317]
  • September 2018 – On September 27, 2018, the home addresses and phone numbers of United States senators Lindsey Graham, Mike Lee, and Orrin Hatch were posted to their respective Wikipedia articles during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Wikipedia administrators deleted the information shortly afterwards.[318][319] Jackson A. Cosko, a Congressional aide[320] was sentenced to 4 years in prison for making the posts and for theft of personal data of Congressional employees.[321][322]


  • January 2019 – On January 11, 2019, in the midst of the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis, the Venezuelan state company CANTV started completely blocking Wikipedia, affecting 1.5 million users.[323]
  • April 2019 - Following the Higashi-Ikebukuro runaway car accident in Japan, an article of the suspect, Kozo Iizuka, was created on the Japanese Wikipedia. The article itself, however, did not touch upon his actions of that day and any attempts to make light of this were reverted by editors, resulting in edit wars and the article being protected by administrators. The edit war was covered by major news outlets, most notably The Asahi Shimbun.[324][325]
  • May 2019 – In May 2019, Leo Burnett Tailor Made, a marketing agency for The North Face Brazil, revealed that they had surreptitiously replaced photos of popular outdoor destinations on Wikipedia with photos featuring North Face products in an attempt to get these products to appear more prominently in search engine results. Following widespread media coverage and criticism from the Wikimedia Foundation, The North Face ended and apologized for the campaign, and the product placement was undone.[326]
  • June 2019 – On June 10, 2019, the English Wikipedia administrator Fram was banned by the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) from editing the English Wikipedia for a period of one year.[327] The ban was eventually overturned. It was the first ever partial ban implemented by the WMF Trust and Safety team.[327] According to Joseph Bernstein of BuzzFeed News, this took place "without a trial", and WMF did not "disclose the complainer nor the complaint" to the community.[327] Some in the editor community expressed anger at the WMF not providing specifics, as well as skepticism as to whether Fram deserved the ban. An internal Wikipedia page called "Community response to the Wikimedia Foundation's ban of Fram" was created to discuss the controversy,[328] and within weeks surpassed 470,000 words, more than the novel A Game of Thrones.[329] A second administrator unblocked Fram, later citing "overwhelming community support", but the WMF reblocked Fram and revoked the administrative abilities of the administrator who unblocked Fram.[327] A third administrator then unblocked Fram.[327] Three weeks after the initial ban, 21 English Wikipedia administrators had resigned.[329] An open letter to WMF Board by the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee on June 30 acknowledged and channelled some of the community dissatisfaction. On July 2, the WMF board opened up the Fram case for a review by the Arbitration Committee, and supported further community involvement in the "debate on toxic behavior" and how to deal with it; a commitment echoed by a July 3 statement from Wikimedia CEO Katherine Maher,[330] who also acknowledged "that there are things that the Foundation could have handled better". The Arbitration Committee completed a review of the Foundation's confidential evidence in September 2019, and overturned the ban.[331]
  • July 2019 – On the Russian Wikipedia a group of 12 users (meatpuppets and sockpuppets) was revealed, which coordinated their edits praising current Russian governments officials (mostly governors) and slandering Russian opposition activists, especially top Anti-Corruption Foundation activists Alexei Navalny and Lyubov Sobol, Russian non-government media and journalists critical to Russian government (e.g. Arkady Babchenko and Yevgenia Albats), using as references almost exclusively articles from media belonging to Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch who reportedly was very close to Vladimir Putin[332][333] and was rumored to be in charge of a social media bot network exercising state-sponsored Internet propaganda.[334] Those users were initially noticed by an editor who saw them almost simultaneously apply for advanced user rights.



  • August 2020 – A Reddit user publicized that a prolific Scots Wikipedia administrator did not speak the Scots language; tens of thousands of articles were in fact English with eye dialect spellings to suggest a Scottish accent, or word-by-word machine translations of articles from English Wikipedia.[335] Wikimedia users debated recruiting fluent speakers of Scots to repair the articles, reverting all edits from the administrator in question, or – as the latter would entail removing nearly half the articles in the encyclopedia – even deleting and restarting Scots Wikipedia afresh. The Guardian attributed the problem to systemic issues in Wikipedia culture, suggesting that some administrators are afforded effectively unchecked power based on sheer volume of edits (rather than the quality of their work).[336] Robyn Speer, chief scientist at Luminoso, expressed concern that artificial intelligence corpora which used Wikipedia for language-training data had been corrupted by the pseudo-Scots.[337]
  • September 2020The Guardian published an experiment conducted by economists from Collegio Carlo Alberto in Italy and ZEW in Germany where they added content into articles about randomly selected cities in Spain. The researchers reported that adding photos increased the nights spent in those cities by 9%. The experiment resulted in the research team being barred from making further edits on Dutch Wikipedia.[338][339]



  • June 2022 – A Chinese woman was found to have "created over 200 fictional articles on the Chinese Wikipedia, writing millions of words of imagined history that went unnoticed for more than 10 years." She went under the username Zhemao (Chinese: 折毛). Some of the Zhemao hoaxes were translated and entered into other Wikipedias, among them the English and Russian Wikipedias.[347][348]
  • July 2022 – A dispute broke out among Wikipedia editors over the definition of an economic recession given in the article on that subject.[349] Right-wing critics accused Wikipedia of aligning with the Joe Biden administration's definition of recession, but according to The Washington Post, the article had always reflected a variety of definitions and was recently changed to give "slightly more emphasis to the two-quarter definition, noting that it is 'commonly used as a practical definition of a recession.'" The Post also noted that "Locking Wikipedia pages to prevent partisan edits is nothing new." When Elon Musk used Twitter to accuse Wikipedia of "losing its objectivity", Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales replied: "Reading too much Twitter nonsense is making you stupid." According to Slate, the recession dispute "shows that [Wikipedia] can have trouble communicating their complexities to outsiders".[349][350][351][352][353][354][355]
  • September 2022 – Following a loss of India to Pakistan in a cricket game at the 2022 Asia Cup, an editor at the article on Indian cricketer Arshdeep Singh changed the country for which he plays to the separatist movement of Khalistan. Under 2021 regulations governing large intermediaries, the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology summoned Wikimedia executives to ensure that "deliberate efforts at incitement and user harm" are not made in the future.[356][357][358]
  • December 2022 – On 6 December, the Wikimedia Foundation announced that it had globally banned 16 users for conflict-of-interest editing of Middle East and North Africa topics after a year-long investigation. It was alleged that these were agents of the Saudi Arabian government. In the media reporting following the bans it transpired that two former administrators had been arrested in 2020 and then jailed by the Saudi government. These were Osama Khalid, who was sentenced to 32 years in jail, and Ziyad al-Sofiani, who was sentenced to eight years.[359][360]


  • February 2023
    • Retired baseball umpire Joe West reportedly made numerous attempts to remove information off his Wikipedia page related to an incident where he pushed a manager, and issued legal threats to many Wikipedia editors who reverted his edits.[361][362][363][364]
    • A Wikipedia Signpost report was published which claimed the Adani Group employed undeclared paid editors to write and sanitize related Wikipedia pages.[365][366]
    • In 2023, Jan Grabowski and Shira Klein published an article in the Journal of Holocaust Research in which they said they had discovered a "systematic, intentional distortion of Holocaust history" on the English-language Wikipedia.[367] Analysing 25 Wikipedia articles and almost 300 back pages (including talk pages, noticeboards and arbitration cases), Grabowski and Klein stated they have shown how a small group of editors managed to impose a fringe narrative on Polish-Jewish relations, informed by Polish nationalist propaganda and far removed from evidence-driven historical research. In addition to the article on the Warsaw concentration camp, the authors conclude that the activities of the editors' group had an effect on several articles, such as History of the Jews in Poland, Rescue of Jews by Poles during the Holocaust and Jew with a coin. Nationalist editing on these and other articles allegedly included content ranging "from minor errors to subtle manipulations and outright lies", examples of which the authors offer.[367]
  • March 2023 – It was noticed that Wikipedia had displayed an incorrect image of the flag of Vatican City for many years.[368]
  • November 2023 – A Wikipedia administrator, Lourdes, exposed themselves as a sockpuppet account of the user Wifione, a former administrator who had been banned as the result of a 2015 Arbitration Committee case regarding Wifione's promotional editing of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management business school article and other related entries. In their edits and in private correspondence, Wifione under the Lourdes account had pretended to be Spanish singer Russian Red (real name Lourdes Hernandez).[369]


A report by The Times of London alleged that the Iranian government was consolidating its presence in Farsi Wikipedia through revision deletion of text related to human rights violations.[370] Justice for Iran has reported the Iranian regime pursued a user after his identity was compromised at a Wikipedia event, and also criticized sysops on Farsi Wikipedia connected to Iranian Islamic Republic regime ministries.[371]

See also[edit]


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