Wikipedia – fact or fiction?

One of the first things one learns upon becoming a journalist is not to trust Wikipedia.

The website, which allows anyone and their mum to upload information on pretty much any subject under the sun, is incredibly useful for getting the gist of a topic, but don’t put any faith in the details.

The content is a remarkable mix of fact and fiction, and so it’s no surprise that some of the changes are hotly contested.

A paper by a team of scientists from Oxford University, Rutgers University and Budapest University of Technology and Economics, has outlined the most disputed entries in the website’s English language database.

They found that a page in which words and phrases are constantly removed then reinstated gives an insight into the depth of feeling the subject evokes in contributors.

The most controversial topic was the presidency of George Bush Jr, whose page was constantly fought over, with contributors repeatedly rewriting history one way or the other.

Anarchism was the second most popular, followed by the Prophet Muhammad, World Wrestling Entertainment employees and global warming.

All in all, it shows how biased people can be when writing on a topic about which they feel pretty strongly. A useful lesson for all journalists to bear in mind when poised over their keyboard.

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