Skip to main content

Wikipedia wars: Which pages are most fiercely contested?

Entries about George W. Bush, anarchism and Muhammad are the most ferociously battled over by editors on Wikipedia's English language edition according to new research.

Millions of pages in 10 language editions of the online encyclopaedia were analysed by academics from the University of Oxford and three other institutions.

The research (opens in new tab) found that the pages of Israel, Adolf Hitler, The Holocaust and God were the most hotly contested across the 10 editions.

To carry out the analysis the researchers looked to the "revert" logs on the pages' editorial history - where one editor completely undoes another editors contribution so the entry becomes exactly as it was in the version before, possibly sparking an "edit war".

It was believed to be a more effective way of measuring conflict than looking at how much pages are changed or updated, as this could simply represent a fast developing topic.

Despite identifying common battle grounds across languages, such as Jesus which features in four top ten lists, the research also identified regional differences based on language.

"Religion, Politics and Geographical places seem to be the common fields of editorial wars in all editions, however with local effects: far-right politics and nationalism in Hungarian, current Iranian political figures in Persian, Sex and Gender related topics in Czech and football clubs in Spanish Wikipedias are evident examples for these localities," reads the research paper (opens in new tab).

In the French language Wikipedia, Socialist politician Ségolène Roy­al is the most fought over entry, whereas in German it is rather oddly, Croatia, whilst Scientology and 9/11 conspiracy theories make up the rest of the top three.

The team is now planning further research to measure how controversial subjects change over time.

Tomas is co-founder of Lucky Pilgrim, a team of journalists, photographers and art directors who connect brands to audiences through words, imagery and design. He was formerly editorial director at Chapel and managing editor at Courier magazine, and was a writer for ITProPortal as well as The Independent, EastLondonLines, The Sunday Times Magazine, and Croon.