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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The Top 20 of Wikipedia Vandalism

Wikipedia “semi-protects” certain articles so that only users who are logged in, and who’ve been registered for 4 days or more, can edit them. On such articles, you’ll see a big lock on top, along with the note that “Editing of this article by unregistered or newly registered users is currently disabled.” Searching for this phrase on Google, while restricting the domain to using the site operator, shows you a browsable list of protected pages ordered in “Google style”. Wikipedia itself also features such a protection list.

The list of protected pages is likely to include topics which are either in a highly commercial “spam neighborhood”, or easy to attract trolls, conspiracy theories, or political slander... or which are simply very hard to agree on because of their subtleties and complexities. The following is not strictly a “top 20 of vandalism” because I don’t know which ones get the most attacks or page views, and many have been unprotected by now – it’s more akin to a “the top 20 pages ordered by Google-assigned authority (possibly backlinks, though the site operator might randomize results a bit more) which were semi-protected at the time Google crawled them (and might not be protected anymore)” – but at the moment, the topics include:

  1. Wiki
  2. Muslim
  3. MySpace
  4. D-Day
  5. Death
  6. Thanksgiving
  7. Heroes (TV series)
  8. Mental retardation
  9. Theory of everything
  10. Pay per click
  11. Vagina
  12. Genetic engineering
  13. Fat
  14. Multi-level marketing
  15. Logo
  16. Anus
  17. Sex
  18. Atlantic Records
  19. Buddha
  20. Osmosis

... and a couple 100s more, including Google, Israel, Bono, Borat, White People, Halo, Paris Hilton, and ... Your Mom.

A stronger form of locking a page is what Wikipedians call protection. As opposed to semi-protection, a protected page can only be edited by administrators. Even if you’ve been registered for a long time, and if you did many good edits, you won’t find an edit button on articles locked this way. While semi-protection is supposed to be lifted quickly, a full protection may be used to stop an “edit war” – which always happens when two opposing sides revert each other’s change ad infinitum. Searching for the phrase “This page is currently protected from editing until disputes have been resolved” returns fewer results (Google shows a page count of about 133), including such seemingly random areas of interest as Turkish coffee, or User:Zaphnathpaaneah, but also politically laden topics like Falun Gong (which at the time of writing is not protected anymore) and September 11, 2001 attacks (which is still fully protected at the moment, and also the number 1 Google result for September 11).

[Thanks David Hetfield!]


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