Articles about George Bush, 9/11 conspiracy theories and Jesus are among the most regularly edited entries on Wikipedia.
The Wikipedia logo. (Credit: Wikipedia)
Researchers from four academic institutions, including Oxford University, analysed page edits made by the users of 10 editions of Wikipedia. They identified pages that were part of "edit wars", where an alteration made by one user is quickly undone and rewritten by another user.
On the English-language edition of Wikipedia, the most hotly contested entries included former US president George W Bush, Christianity, anarchism and the Prophet Mohammed. Circumcision and a list of current employees of World Wrestling Entertainment also made the most contested list.
On the German version of Wikipedia, scientology, 9/11 conspiracy theories and Jesus were some of the most contested. Among the most edited articles on the French Wikipedia were entries on UFOs, Jehovah's Witness and the 9/11 attacks themselves.
Aggregated across all 10 editions, the most contested articles were Hitler, Israel, the Holocaust and God.
The research hoped to identify some of the world's most contentious discussion topics. Rather than monitoring how many edits a page received overall, the researchers focused on pages where edits were made and unmade quickly, in order to identify topics that were contested rather than gradually changing.
"Our results indicate that Wikipedia is more than just an encyclopaedia," the paper published by the researchers explains. "It is also a window into convergent and divergent social-spatial priorities, interests and preferences."
The research found that the English-language version of Wikipedia was where topics of global interest were most often contested.
"The English Wikipedia, in particular, occupies a unique role," the research found. "The language's status as a lingua franca means that English Wikipedia ends up being edited by a broad community beyond simply those that have the language as a mother tongue.
"As a result, it is expected that globally disputed themes are often represented in this Wikipedia. Already in the top-ten list of conflict articles we see such items as "Jesus", "Anarchism" or "Race and intelligence."
Further research is now planned to see whether the regularity of edits changes over time as people's perspectives on certain topics are changed.
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