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Wikipedia is an Internet project that aims to create a comprehensive encyclopedia by allowing anyone to create and edit its articles. The project was created in 2001 as a project of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), an organization created by the owners of Bomis, including Jimmy Wales (who also co-founded Wikipedia). In January 2021, its 20th anniversary attracted media coverage.

As of 2021, Wikipedia boasts over 50 million articles[1] in over 300 languages.[2] 6.7 million of these articles are on the English language Wikipedia.[3] Despite criticisms over accuracy and content (most famously from the people who produce the well-established Encyclopædia Britannica), the site is frequently used as a basic reference and a starting point for deeper research.

Wikipedia attempts to maintain a neutral point of view, and despite its admitted difficulty in attaining one, efforts are constantly made to try to filter out and resist pervasive bias. In practice, normal people find it quite useful. Although Wikipedia articles cannot be used in writing an essay or research paper, its bibliographies can help. Furthermore, a well-written Wikipedia article can help people review or start learning about a new topic.

The Wikipedia project has inspired a great many other, smaller wikis, most of which are focused on more specific topics or aim to provide an alternative to Wikipedia's neutral point of view. Sites such as Homestar Runner Wiki,[4] Conservapedia, and Citizendium[5] are run using the same wiki software developed by the Wikimedia Foundation. Although many are encyclopedic in nature, some such as Flu Wiki[6] are used for information sharing for a specific purpose. Some wikis, such as Uncyclopedia[7] and Encyclopædia Dramatica, are parodies of the wiki phenomenon, and others, such as RationalWiki, are used to explore critical thinking, while Fandom is a monument to obsessive fandoms of all kinds (the wiki for Star Wars is, for instance, named — of course — Wookieepedia).[8]


Wikipedia boasts over 50 million articles in 302 languages (each language has a separate Wikipedia subdomain, such as for English), from the popular ones like English and Cebuano (a language of the Philippines) to far smaller projects such as in the Afar and Muscogee languages.[2] Wikipedia has been compared once positively to Encyclopædia Britannica.[9] Despite this, however, it's often frowned upon to use it as a reference in any serious work due to the lack of formal quality control (and because it's usually better to cite original sources).

The management[edit]


English Wikipedia has about 1,100 administrators (200 of them being active), who have the power to perform certain tasks that could be disruptive in the wrong hands, such as deleting articles. They're also in charge of enforcing over 2,600 different guidelines, primarily through the use of user blocks and topic bans (where a user is banned from a set of pages, but not the entire site).

A common misconception is that administrators oversee Wikipedia's content.[10] This is not their intended role; in fact, the site's policy expressly forbids administrators from using their authority to influence content. In practice, however, administrators have quite a few ways to influence content, including tools such as "protection" (which prevents other editors from editing an article), user blocks, and the authority to "close" debates (including deletion discussions), in effect declaring one side a winner and enacting their views.

Administrators are appointed for life and have complete autonomy (like other editors, but with greater powers). They can intervene in any dispute they like, and being human, play favorites — sometimes blatantly, sometimes unconsciously. The admin corps is for the most part well-meaning and well-behaved, but with very little oversight, it pretty much takes the wiki equivalent of a shooting spree before an admin's powers are revoked. Accusations of "rogue" administrators are common, since all administrators are rogue agents.

Mainly due to periodic bouts of admin accounts being hacked and posting images of goatse on the main page (and penises on Donald Trump's bio),[11] admin accounts that are not used for a long time have their admin rights removed. If the admin comes back within a certain period, they can get their rights back on a simple request.


Particularly contentious disputes, including ones involving administrators, are handled by a committee of arbitrators — Wikipedia's equivalent of the Supreme Court. As with the admins, the arbitrators are expected to focus solely on behavioral issues and avoid any role in shaping content.[12] Arbitrators have much less autonomy than administrators: they handle only high-profile disputes, there are only 12 or so arbitrators at any given time, they must act jointly, and most importantly, they must undergo community-wide re-election every two years (half are re-elected each year). As a consequence, Wikipedia's arbitrators do, for the most part, act cautiously and impartially make grand, sweeping statements about principles without doing anything that anyone relevant might complain about doesn't force them to do.

The chief problem with Wikipedia's arbitration committee is that it is the sole legalistic body on the site with any supposed power, and the arbitration process is so arduous that they can only handle a few dozen cases a year. All other disputes, little and big, are left for editors to hash out amongst themselves, through much screaming, edit-warring (the doing and undoing of content changes), and the occasional admin swooping in to declare one side a winner, until the fight flares up again a few months (or days) later. Normally, the fight will end up on a "dramaboard" where both sides wind each other up, bait each other, and goad the other into losing their mind. The side that goes insane first is banned or blocked.

Thus, the ultimate arbiter of who gets to shape Wikipedia is persistence. Whoever insists on their version of content (at the article level) or policy (at the project level) day after day, year after year, while staying within behavioral norms, and not going insane, will ultimately win. (This is not to say that an individual can overpower a crowd; a group tends to have more stamina than an individual, and can get a particularly pesky Don Quixote beaten banned.)

The Grand Poobahs[edit]

In theory, there is a formal layer of management on Wikipedia, that of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, and their employee, the Executive Director of the Foundation. In practice, the Foundation is in charge of little more than Wikipedia's ongoing hosting (software, hardware and technicians) and funding. They make occasional grandiose speeches about the importance of Wikipedia, and are responsible for the well-received[13] slogan "Wikipedia Forever" "WIKIPEDIA FOREVER".[14] Their oversight of Wikipedia's content mostly takes the form of embracing restrictive "Biographies of Living Persons" and "Non-free Content" policies for fear that one big lawsuit could bring the project to its knees. The upshot of this is that you cannot mention gerbils anywhere in the proximity of Richard Gere's anus article, even to point out that it's a hoax,[15][16] or post copyrighted (but fair use) content anywhere that would make sense, such as putting a picture of a Muppet on the List of MuppetsWikipedia page.

Following Wikipedia's inability to address online child predators, the WMF established a Trust and Safety staff to handle these cases, and banned a number of people from all projects without publicly stating any reason and without any avenue of appeal. When this staff was established, its scope was limited to serious issues such as child protection, leaving editing disputes or "incivility" to the specific Wikipedia projects. However, in 2018, the Foundation expanded their role to include "incivility", and discussed this change only with user groups associated with minority or disadvantaged populations. In 2018, Laura Hale, the significant other of the Foundation Board Chair, filed a series of complaints with Trust and Safety claiming that a long-time and respected administrator Fram, was harassing her based on his challenging the competence of many of her edits. On June 10, 2019, Trust and Safety blocked Fram for a year, which triggered a firestorm of protests and resignations among English Wikipedia administrators.[17][18] The first response of executive director Katherine Maher was to tweet that the Buzzfeed News article was "shitty".[19]

Criticisms of Wikipedia[edit]

Wikipedia itself states "Wikipedia is not a reliable sourceWikipedia for citations elsewhere on Wikipedia. Because, as a user-generated source, it can be edited by anyone at any time, any information it contains at a particular time could be vandalism, a work in progress, or just plain wrong."

It is certainly true that Wikipedia's open-editing policy sometimes causes problems, known as vandalism or "wandalism". This is the main criticism brought up in popular media, where actual knowledge of how the wiki operates is seldom in evidence. While it's true that anyone can add misinformation, it's also true that anyone can remove it. The MediaWiki software even has a handy button to do this, and numerous bots and editors patrol recent edits to make sure none are obviously malicious — the average unwanted edit usually lasts about one minute on Wikipedia (although in some cases obvious vandalism can last much longer[note 1]). Coupled with the fact that any article likely to receive attention from vandals is protected or semi-protected from anonymous editing,[note 2] the wiki isn't in much danger of being overridden by obvious vandalism. More subtle vandalism, errors, and distortions (intentional or otherwise) are another matter entirely.

In reality, one of the major drawbacks of Wikipedia is its excessive bureaucracy that is evident when you get deeply involved in writing for it or patrolling its edits. Its pages on policy and style are numerous, and probably larger than the whole of RationalWiki (that's including talk and non-mainspace entries). The implementation of its rules in letter rather than spirit by its senior members is also an issue.

Quality control[edit]

While Wikipedia has several rules, how those rules are read by the various editors is a problem. Misunderstandings of what qualifies as original research, what qualifies as a reliable source (it took a good effort to finally remove Scientific Research Publishing from the James Ossuary page even though Wikipedia itself showed that odds were the publisher itself wasn't reliable and the journal should never have been used as a source), and how to address conflict between different reliable sources (like did World War II begin in 1931[note 3][20][21][22][23][24][25][26] or 1939?[note 4]) abound.

Part of the issue is how Wikipedia uses the word "reliable"; There is the Wikipedia:Reliable sourcesWikipedia criteria which sets the standards for which references can even be used in an article, the Wikipedia:VerifiabilityWikipedia policy which while related to reliability is actually slightly different (this is where the "Never use self-published sources as third-party sources about living people, even if the author is an expert, well-known professional researcher, or writer" [sic] policy is stated), i.e. reliable as in accurate (Wikipedia:Inaccuracy),Wikipedia and finally what a particular profession considers reliable. It is easy for totally unreliable material (such as journals with poor quality control) to sneak in.

One of the more insidious tricks is to make up something and cite a large high quality (in terms of reference) book and hope no one has the time or means to cross-check. The Little Red Riding Hood article had this where it was said "These early variations of the tale, do differ from the currently known version in several ways. The antagonist is not always a wolf, but sometimes an ogre, vampire, (Beckett, S. L. (2008). Little Red Riding Hood. In D. Haase, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairytales: G-P (pp. 466-492). Greenwood Publishing Group.). But the talk page reveals that this reference in fact didn't exist. If the work didn't exist in a format that was searchable, odds are that this piece of false information would still be in the article.

Also how references are handled is left to the whims of the various editors; it is not uncommon to find raw URLs with no clue in the article to what they refer to being used as references (making it hard to re-find the reference if the link ever breaks, which is common with news sites which change the URL once the story stops being current news).

A particular instance of failed quality control was revealed in August 2020, when it transpired that a male North Carolina teenager had created thousands of articles on the Scots Wikipedia ( by simply changing a few words from the equivalent English text, as he had no actual command of the language himself. The Reddit user who first commented on the matter called the matter, "cultural vandalism on a hitherto unprecedented scale."[27][28]

From 2014 through part of 2022, a fictional Alan MacMasters from Scotland was the inventor of the toaster if one believes everything that one reads on Wikipedia.[29][30][31] In fact, Wikipedia has an entire page on the times that someone pulled their chain, Reliability of Wikipedia,[32] but would you believe that page?

That different editors can interpret the same rules differently and the problem that ArbCom has very limited capacity for dispute resolution means that closely-related pages can come to different conclusions on the same topic if they are watched over by different editors.

Bias in Wikipedia[edit]

Wikipedia attempts to maintain a neutral point of view, and although there is admitted difficulty in attaining this goal,[33] policies are in place to try to filter out and resist pervasive bias. Unfortunately, almost no one agrees on what "neutrality" actually means.

When used by wingnuts, the phrase "bias in Wikipedia" is insider jargon for Wikipedia's aspirations to objectivity, citable fact, and reality, rather than subjectivity, irrationality, and extreme points of view in the creation evolution of their encyclopedic articles. Naturally, wingnuts consider everything else (especially things that are neutral) to have a liberal bias. When one considers that anything not far-right is, by its very nature, to the left of that conservative stance, their logic is impeccable.

When used by moonbats, the phrase "bias in Wikipedia" means that the site is run by libertarian drone armies and controlled by the CIA.

When used by alties, the phrase "bias in Wikipedia" means that science that works has better references and this is unfair.

This bias even extends to what sources are considered reliable. Take the start of WWII for example. The page claims "World War II is generally considered to have begun on 1 September 1939" in the lede. This is in spite of material made even during the war (including Prelude to War by the United States Army, which pointed to September 18, 1931 as the start date), as is the case with least five 21st-century reliable sources.[34][35][36][37][38] It then tries to put up a fig leaf using sources that talk about when the war in Europe started and comically contradicts itself in the body text ("The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or the earlier Japanese invasion of Manchuria, on 19 September 1931.") with reliable sources from what the lede in claims.

In some cases, the reliable sources used can be flat-out wrong, which can be proved by other reliable sources.[39]

Various well-heeled organizations, including the CIA, Microsoft, Fox News, Scientology, Elsevier, and Diebold, along with many presumably less well-heeled celebrities, have altered Wikipedia entries to suit their own agendas and make themselves look good.[40][41][42] Promotional language is easy to spot once you're used to Wikipedia's dull gray house style, and Wikipedia regulars can get very good at picking up on it.

As everywhere on the Internet, many articles touching upon controversial subjects, such as antisemitism, have been subject to frequent edit wars and even more than one arbcom cases.[43][44] And that's all we're gonna say about this issue here.[citation NOT needed] Contentious science topics are more likely to be vandalized than non-contentious topics: global warming (111 words/day) and evolution (142 words/day) vs. continental drift (24 words/day) and general relativity (20 words/day), thus making it harder for scientists to monitor the accuracy of contentious topics.[45][46]

One bias to which Wikipedia admits is a policy of discouraging crime. Wikipedia tries to deflect attention away from people not notable except for their crimes and towards their innocent victims. For example, the article on the 2008 murder of Travis Alexander by Jodi Arias is called the "Murder of Travis Alexander", rather than "Murder committed by Jodi Arias" or simply "Jodi Arias". In fact, "Jodi Arias" just redirects to "Murder of Travis Alexander". People don't get Wikipedia articles just for committing a murder, even for executed offenders, and if someone does try to make one, it will be taken down quickly (speedy deletion). The exceptions are people who are well known for assassinating a high-profile figure, people who were/are famous before the horrible crime (John Wilkes Booth), people who were subsequently exonerated (Alfred Dreyfus), high-profile appellate cases, or mass or serial killers (let alone serial mass killers such as Saddam Hussein). The argument is that infamy is not valid cause for getting a web page created and maintained that extols one's horrific deed.[citation needed]

Anti-Korean bias[edit]

Articles related to the politics of inter-Korea are also written quite biased. For example, the Korean word 민족(Minjok), which is synonymous with the Japanese/Chinese word 民族, often translates to "[Korean] race" in Wikipedia. However, 민족 is much more in line with the meaning of "nation", "folk" (in German, it's "Volk"), or "[ethnic] people" than "race".[47][48] In particular, articles related to nationalism in South Korea and North Korea often cite figures such as Shin Ki-wook, Brian Reynolds Myers, and Robert E. Kelly,Wikipedia[49] who are openly pro-Japanese/anti-Korean and right-wing biased.

This is clearly anti-Korean bias even when comparing articles related to Korean nationalism with articles related to Chinese nationalism or German nationalism. For example, in the English Wikipedia article Pledge of Allegiance (South Korea),Wikipedia the word [한]민족 is translated as "[Korean] race", but in the March of the VolunteersWikipedia/Zhonghua minzuWikipedia article, the word [中華]民族 is translated as "Chinese nation". The German word VolkWikipedia has the same meaning as 민족, but even "Volk" translates to "nation" or "ethnic group" in English Wikipedia and never "Volk" translates to "race" in English Wikipedia, but English Wikipedia translates 민족Wikipedia as "race". Even the article Yamato peopleWikipedia translates 大和民族 as "Yamato ethnicity" and never translates it as "Yamato race". Nevertheless, the article KoreansWikipedia identifies it as "Korean race" even though translating 한민족 as "Korean nation" or "Korean ethnicity" is absolutely the right translation. However, Korean "민족", German "Volk", and Chinese/Japanese "民族" are ALL synonymous. This is a prime example of Wikipedia's anti-Korean tendency. In fact, the Korean-English dictionary run by the South Korean government reveals that 민족 means "people; ethnic group" and never means "[Korean] race".

Since the Korean population is smaller than that of the Japanese and Chinese populations, the opinions of Japanese and Chinese users tend to be reflected more than those of Korean users. (Korea, China, and Japan are not in good relations with each other.)[note 5] This anti-Korean bias in Wikipedia is particularly pronounced in Japanese Wikipedia.[50]

Attitude toward expertise[edit]

The Wikipedia philosophy can be summed up thusly: "Experts are scum." For some reason people who spend 40 years learning everything they can about, say, the Peloponnesian War — and indeed, advancing the body of human knowledge — get all pissy when their contributions are edited away by Randy in Boise who heard somewhere that sword-wielding skeletons were involved. And they get downright irate when asked politely to engage in discourse with Randy until the sword-skeleton theory can be incorporated into the article without passing judgment.
—Lore Sjöberg[51]

One of Wikipedia's more controversial points is that experts and expertise count for nothing. The site's "anyone can edit" ethos means that someone who has published dozens of journal articles on a topic gets no more consideration than a certifiable moron. All material must be cited to established secondary sources with no "original research" (i.e., the editor's own knowledge or interpretation).[note 6] The intent was to avoid credential bullying. Actually verifying people's credentials can be time-consuming (try checking how reputable an overseas university is, especially if you don't speak the language on the degree certificate), and judging what credentials to require isn't easy (is a degree in alt woo sufficient for editing an article on alt woo?). While the need to cite secondary sources is in principle a good thing, in practice, there are so many sources saying so many different things that cranks can often find an obscure source to support them, or selectively quote from more prominent sources. Wikipedia recognizes this, and has a page on the "Randy in Boise" problem.

Experts get sick of dealing with perpetual blithering idiocy and being expected to just put up with it — then being penalised when they finally blow their top. That said, you can hardly move on Wikipedia without bumping into a Ph.D. Wikipedia is not for everyone, and genuine experts quickly learn that what matters is not their knowledge, but their ability to remain unfailingly polite in the face of provocation.

Homophobia and transphobia[edit]

If I had a Wikipedia article and then I suddenly claimed to be a dog, or a cat, would they change it to reflect such a non-sense[sic]? Biologically he is a man and will die a man
—Comment on the talk page of Chelsea Manning, deemed acceptable by Wikipedia's operators.[52]

Wikipedia has been strongly criticized for transphobia and homophobia among its editors and even in the upper echelons of its management. For example, on the Croatian Wikipedia,Wikipedia a group of far-right administrators have imposed both a dirtbag worldview in particular and routinely banned opposing editors from the site, even leading Croatia's Minister of Education to warn against using Wikipedia because of its "falsified" and extremist content.[53][54]

In September 2013, following a discussion rife with hate speech against trans people, the English version of Wikipedia decided to move the article on Chelsea Manning back to her birth name,[55] despite her wish to be referred to as Chelsea, in a move widely described as transphobic:[56]

The fact that a group of people held a vote on whether or not to call a trans woman by her preferred name, and then lost that vote, is seen as yet more evidence of a painful lack of diversity of experience amongst active Wikipedia editors.[57]

In October 2013, the page was eventually returned to her true name after a lengthy discussion.[58] Despite an arbitration case following this incident, very few of the editors who had made transphobic comments were banned. The move was met with condemnation from LGBT rights groups such as Trans Media Watch and widely criticized for "implying that accusations of transphobia are as bad as actual incidents of transphobia."[59][60]

The German version of Wikipedia demonstrates an equally strong and unusual bias, insisting on referring to Manning as "Bradley" and "he" months after she came out as transgender. On the talk page, many editors reject the very existence of transgender people and the scientific consensus in the medical community, one editor arguing: "A wolf in sheep's clothing is not much of a sheep."[61] The French version of Wikipedia continues to refer to Lana Wachowski as "he" even years after she came out as transgender. One editor argued that transphobia is "strongly encouraged in… France."[62]

White male editors[edit]

Regular editors of English Wikipedia tend to be white, male, and from Europe or North America.[63] Unsurprisingly, editors of English Wikipedia tend to have English as their first or only language. This means that editors are not representative of the population of the world as a whole and are able to access certain sources more easily than others, so the interests and expertise of the editors lead to a number of biases in the encyclopedia's coverage (lots of video games, few women artists of color). In particular its coverage of women is often criticised, for example by Jess Wade who has campaigned to create pages on more women scientists, and the Jewish Museum in New York has held events to increase coverage of women artists.[64][65] Because early contributors tended to come from a particular hacker subculture, Wikipedia coverage and policies reflected their interests and beliefs, including a resistance to rules and ideas like diversity, and a tolerance of difficult, abrasive, even misogynist people.[66] This also relates to problems with trans rights, homophobia, and other biases discussed on this page.

Topics appealing to women are likely to be covered in less depth, shown for example in a comparison of the length of articles on boys' and girls' toys (e.g. baseball cards vs. friendship bracelets), or TV shows with a male vs. female viewership (The Sopranos vs. Sex and the City).[66] A study showed differences in language used to write about men and women, reflecting gender bias, as well as differences in content (such as articles about women being more likely to mention family and children).[67] There are also claims that articles on black musicians are more likely to focus on negatives like their run-ins with the law than white musicians, due to the biases of Wikipedia editors.[68] Historical biases mean less information is available about women and non-European subjects through history and even in present-day publications, and Wikipedia policies require a certain amount of published coverage of a figure to allow an article on them, which means injustices elsewhere are replicated in Wikipedia's coverage.

In its defence, Wikipedia recognises many of these problems, and has articles on Gender bias on Wikipedia,Wikipedia Racial bias on Wikipedia,Wikipedia and the overarching Wikipedia:Systemic bias.Wikipedia


See the main article on this topic: Circular reasoning

A fact on Wikipedia is supposed to be cited to an external source, such as a newspaper or book. However, Wikipedia is now so popular as a source of information that many newspaper articles and books publish facts that they got from Wikipedia, and these sources can be added to the Wikipedia article to justify its truth. Wikipedia has a page on the phenomenon which includes several examples, such as the fictional claim that the coatiWikipedia (a raccoony animal) is also known as the Brazilian aardvark.[69] Another example is actor Sacha Baron Cohen (of Borat and Ali G fame) being named as a former Goldman Sachs employee: this was entered on Wikipedia in 2006, probably as a joke by employees of Goldman Sachs or an associated company, and subsequently repeated in The Guardian and The Independent newspapers.[70] The solution is for both Wikipedia editors and non-Wikipedia writers to check the actual sources of information. This phenomenon, where adding any claim to Wikipedia automatically means it's true, is also known as citogenesis and is a subtype of what is more generally known as the Woozle effect,Wikipedia where non-facts are elevated to perceived wisdom by repetition.[71]

In 2017, it was confirmed that text from Wikipedia pages shapes peer-reviewed chemistry publications (and presumably in other science fields).[72] In 2022, it was confirmed that lower-level US judges did in fact rely on Wikipedia pages rather than the actual legal judgements in their rulings.[73] The one benefit to these findings (besides exposing this behavior) is that it is pushing Wikipedia to become more accepting of experts who are editors.[73]


It's possible for sufficiently skilled editors to insert hoaxes into Wikipedia, which can persist for a long time. Obviously Wikipedia has a pageWikipedia on this, which e.g. lists several hoax articles which existed on Wikipedia for over ten years, as well as significant and long-lasting false claims in other articles. Examples that lasted over a decade include:

  • Eric van Viele, an early 20th century German actor with a fictitious biography.[74]
  • Made-up sports called Bont and Synchronized Football.[75][76]
  • Bine, an Akkadian demon that made it into Theresa Bane's Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures. Bine didn't exist, even in the hearts of credulous Akkads.
  • Jar'Edo Wens, an Australian Aboriginal god that did not in fact exist.[77]
  • The claim that the 1924 Democratic National Convention was also known as the "Klanbake".
  • Claims about Nazi death camps for Poles, part of the wider Polish Holocaust conspiracy theory.[78][79]
  • George K. Broomhall, a fictional American brevet Brigadier General in the American Civil War and allegedly the inventor of cream soda.

Skepticism on Wikipedia[edit]

As a consequence of Wikipedia's open editing policy, the skeptical group Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia is able to work tirelessly to insert a more skeptical line in Wikipedia's articles. Wikipedia's content policies — cite everything, genuine peer-reviewed science[80] wins — means that this can be done without infringing its policies. Naturally, cranks are very unhappy with the situation.[81]

Despite being an objectivist, Jimmy Wales has endorsed a sources-based viewpoint. A group of alternative medicine practitioners created a petition[82] asking him to "create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing". This was because they found the existing strict requirements for things like 'facts' and 'evidence' excessively burdensome. Wales' response, in full:

No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.

Wikipedia's policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals — that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.

What we won't do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatansWikipedia is the equivalent of "true scientific discourse". It isn't.


For a fuller list, see Category:Wikis

While wikis existed before Wikipedia, it is easily the largest and best known (to the point where many people mistakenly/lazily say "wiki" to mean Wikipedia specifically), and has inspired a great many other, smaller projects using the same Mediawiki software designed by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Some wikis such as Uncyclopedia and Encyclopædia Dramatica are satirical takes on Wikipedia; others, such as WikiSynergy or Wiki4CAM, are general projects that aren't necessarily encyclopedic in nature but gather information and resources for people who are interested in certain things and find that Wikipedia is a bit too strict regarding notability and neutrality.[83]


Because of its "free license", lots of people copy material from Wikipedia for their own sites. Normally, this just involves taking a snippet from the lead, but some "mirror" sites host copies of entire articles.[note 7] It is a legal requirement to credit the original authors as required by Wikipedia's CC-BY-SA licence when doing this. However the invention of "smart home" devices such as Amazon Alexa, Siri, and the others has presented a legal issue of sorts since these devices parrot Wikipedia content without even mentioning Wikipedia or any of the authors. The Wikimedia Foundation which hosts Wikipedia was initially very keen to complain about this, but mysteriously stopped mentioning it in mid-2018 after Amazon gave them a $1 million donation.[84]

My God, it's full of PORN![edit]

Don't be a dick.
A place where a cartoon episode about an anal probe provokes a firestorm, but a true story of murder and dismemberment is fine and dandy (as you know).
— Comment on the oft repeated criticism of main page content[85]

As it is a global educational resource, and also caters for mature grown-ups, Wikipedia has a firm NO CENSORSHIP policy. This means that the detailed etymology of the word "fuck," pictures of men sucking their own penises and the close-up of a vulva (which made the front page on the German language Wikipedia in April 2010)[86] are there for entirely educational reasons.[87] As a result, be careful when hitting Special:Random at work. In any case, it is clear that people go to Wikipedia primarily for its educational content, particularly Wikimedia Commons and its painstakingly categorised images.[88]

The squeamish of the world are most often horrified and appalled by this and complain to the authorities. It is unfortunate that those most keen to complain about mature images held by the Wikimedia Foundation are those who prefer "personal responsibility," yet don't seem to take the "personal responsibility" to install something like Net-Nanny, or set their preferences to restrict mature images. Right-wing wannabe media giant WorldNetDaily complained to the FBI concerning an image of the cover of Virgin Killer by the Scorpions. The Internet Watch Foundation in the UK filtered all of Wikipedia because of the same image, but backed down when they were pilloried in the media. The image is classed as illegal child pornography in the UK and many European countries including Sweden, where visiting the Wikipedia page featuring the image is itself technically illegal. Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia and founder of Citizendium, also lodged a complaint concerning "child pornography," over line art drawings of lolicon.[89][90] Not even the Register commenters bought it, Mike Godwin left it at pointing out how completely wronger than wrong Dr. Sanger was,[91] and the general response was people noting how the "complaint" was basically a plug for Sanger's Citizendium and WatchKnow projects.

Wikimedia Commons has, however, quite enough pictures of old, white penises attached to fat German men, to the point of having a penis photo rejection template.[92] After Jimbo went mad with an axe on Commons in May 2010,[93] there's been a bit of a drive to raise the technical quality of the porn educational images of the human body as well. So if you're hot, upload images of your genitalia to Wikimedia Commons today! Must be uniquely educational.[citation NOT needed]

Accusation of being a shill[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia

Conspiracy theorists love to pull the shill gambit with Wikipedia, because it's neutral, and doesn't promote their theories. Claims include deleting articles about known cranks because of "disagreeing with them", and spreading disinformation about the NWO, 9/11, and Big Pharma.[94] While this does happen, this is usually because of the lack of reliable sources these articles have. Sources like The Grayzone, Infowars and Natural News won't fly on Wikipedia. Conspiracy theorists hate this, because sites like those are the only sites that support their theories. Hence, Wikipedia is a Shill![95]

While Wikipedia does have the occasional issue with conflict-of-interest editing and paid editors, it is common for conspiracy theorists to take this to a new level by accusing any editor who supports an edit that appears to them to favor Big Pharma or GMOs of being "paid", usually in the form of just asking questions, all the way up to believing Wikipedia itself is being duped by them.

Wannabe Tony StarkWikipedia Elon Musk has joined the esteemed club of people accusing Wikipedia of having a "left-wing bias."[96]

Knowledge Engine[edit]

In 2007, rumors and press reports of a WMF-sponsored search engine circulated to the point that the WMF issued a press release stating, "Wikimedia is not developing a search engine and does not plan to."[97] In January 2008, Wales announced Wikia Search, a human-powered search engine.[98] Wales made the cover of various tech magazines based on the announcement.[99] When Sue Gardner took over as Executive Director of WMF, she discovered that Google-related donors has reservations about donating due to the project. Wales kept making comments to the press that Wikia Search was progressing and a week later, Wales announced that the project was terminated. Wales promised to return to the project when the economy picks up.[100] A $2 million Google-related donation followed.

In 2015, the WMF embarked on a secret project that was so secret that even some of the engineers assigned to work on parts of it did not know that it was a Google-killing general search engine called the "Knowledge Engine."[101] The estimated budget for doing the complete project would be around $30 million and would take up about half of the WMF's available funds. The project was so secret that even the WMF Board was not fully briefed about it. The WMF applied for a $2 million per year multi-year grant from the Knight Brothers foundation for the Knowledge Engine project, but received only $250,000 for a feasibility study.[102] Under WMF policy, such grants must be approved by the WMF Board. In July 2015, James Heilman was elected by the community as a WMF Board member. Heilman brought to the Board concerns about the poor communications between the Executive Director and the staff as well as about the secrecy surrounding the "Knowledge Engine." The Board voted to hire a management mentor to work with the Executive Director, voted to accept the Knight grant,[103] and voted to remove Heilman from the Board.[104] When faced with persistent questions about why Heilman was removed, the "Knowledge Engine" project was disclosed[105] and the Executive Director resigned on February 25, 2016. Despite explicit statements in the WMF application for the Knight grant, Wales still denies that the project was to be a general-purpose search engine.

External links[edit]


  1. As one example, a case of small-case vandalism of the FusulinidaWikipedia page was reverted five years later.
  2. Every time xkcd mentions something obscure, the relevant Wikipedia article which would explain the joke gets locked down pretty tight.
  3. The Japanese invasion of Manchuria
  4. The German invasion of Poland
  5. It doesn't help matters that one half of Korea has severely restricted Internet access.[citation NOT needed]
  6. The "no original research" rule was established to get the physics cranks to STFU.[citation needed] As it turns out, it's a good summary of what an encyclopedia is: a secondary or tertiary source.
  7. An example is New World Encyclopedia, which was created by the Unification Church. Though, they alter the copied pages in line with the church's views. You will now realize just how frequently it pops up in your Google search results.


  1. Grand Total of Wikipedias, Wikimedia Foundation, accessed Sep 5, 2019
  2. 2.0 2.1 All Wikipedias ordered by number of articles, Wikimedia Foundation
  3. Wikipedia:Special:Statistics
  4. Homestar Runner Wiki
  5. Main Page, Citizendium
  6. Flu Wiki
  7. Uncyclopedia
  9. Study: Wikipedia as accurate as Britannica, CNET, Dec 16, 2005
  10. For example, see this academic paper on Wikipedia
  11. Wikipedia’s Trump penis vandals have struck again Recent attacks hacked admin accounts to get around edit blocks; Russell Brandom, Nov 24, 2018.
  12. Wikipedia guide to arbitration, (English) Wikipedia
  14. Considered but rejected: "Wikipedia: The Dark Knight Rises" and "Wikipedia: Arkham Asylum"
  15. Barbara and David P. Mikkelson (2001-11-18). "From Gere to eternity". Urban Legends Reference Pages. 
  16. Special:Permalink/316851501 § GerbilWikipedia
  17. "Wikipedia Editors Revolt over Site’s Ban of Veteran Administrator". June 28, 2019. Retrieved 2019-06-20. 
  18. "The Culture War Has Finally Come For Wikipedia". June 27, 2019. Retrieved 2019-06-30. 
  19. "When you have to retweet your shitty pseudo-thinkpiece three times because no one cares.". June 27, 2019. Retrieved 2019-06-30. 
  20. Ghuhl, Wernar (2007) Imperial Japan's World War Two Transaction Publishers pg 7
  21. Spencer C. Tucker (23 December 2009). A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO. p. 1850. ISBN 978-1-85109-672-5
  22. Cheng, Chu-chueh (2010) The Margin Without Centre: Kazuo Ishiguro Peter Lang Page 116
  23. Stein, R. Conrad (1994) World War II in the Pacific: "Remember Pearl Harbor" Enslow Publishers Page 117
  24. Olson, James Stuart (2001) Historical Dictionary of the Great Depression, 1929-1940 Greenwood Publishing Group pg 160
  25. Rollins, Peter (2008) Why We Fought: America's Wars in Film and History University Press of Kentucky Page 246
  26. Prelude to War (1942) US Government
  27. Libby Brooks and Alex Hern: Shock an aw: US teenager wrote huge slice of Scots Wikipedia, The Guardian, 26 August 2020
  28. Karl McDonald: Scots Wikipedia taken over by American teenager who wrote thousands of ‘very odd’ articles without learning language, i, 26 August 2020
  29. Alan MacMasters: How the great online toaster hoax was exposed (by Marco Silva (19 November 2022).
  30. lan MacMasters Wikipedia (archived from July 19, 2022).
  31. Alan MacMasters Wikipedia (archived from July 19, 2022).
  32. See the Wikipedia article on Reliability of Wikipedia.
  33. Perhaps they should just delete and protect the article?
  34. Ghuhl, Wernar (2007) Imperial Japan's World War Two Transaction Publishers pg 7
  35. Spencer C. Tucker (23 December 2009). A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO. p. 1850. ISBN 978-1-85109-672-5
  36. Cheng, Chu-chueh (2010) The Margin Without Centre: Kazuo Ishiguro Peter Lang Page 116
  37. Olson, James Stuart (2001) Historical Dictionary of the Great Depression, 1929-1940 Greenwood Publishing Group pg 160
  38. Rollins, Peter (2008) Why We Fought: America's Wars in Film and History University Press of Kentucky Page 246
  39. Wikipedia:Inaccuracy
  40. See Who's Editing Wikipedia - Diebold, the CIA, a Campaign, Wired
  41. Wikipedia Scanner
  42. 5 Celebrity Wikipedia Entries They Clearly Wrote Themselves,
  43. wikipedia:Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Antisemitism in Poland
  44. wikipedia:Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Palestine-Israel articles
  45. Contentious science topics on Wikipedia subject to editing mischief: Politically charged issues such as global warming are prime targets for online sabotage by Meghan Rosen (3:54pm, August 19, 2015) Science News.
  46. Content Volatility of Scientific Topics in Wikipedia: A Cautionary Tale by Adam M. Wilson & Gene E. Likens (August 14, 2015) PLoS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134454
  47. Race and Racism in Modern East Asia (2015). "... nations (Kor. minjok) and races (injong), and attempts to broaden the boundaries of the Korean ethno-nation by expanding it to include both Jurchen tribes and their purported Manchu descendants. ..." pp.268
  48. "NEW YORK TIMES SPOTLIGHTS RACISM IN SOUTH KOREA". Hyphen Magazine (Asian America Unabridged). November 4, 2009. "... racism in Korea is very different from racism in the U.S. In Korea, it is based on the idea of ethnic purity, the Korean "folk" (minjok) not "race" ..."
  49. Kelly, Robert E. (4 June 2015). "Why South Korea is So Obsessed with Japan". Real Clear Defense.
  50. "Online Platforms Like Twitter Are Missing a Brutal Wave of Hate Speech in Japan". TIME. 1 September 2022. "Japanese far-right netizens called “netto-uyoku” flock to Yahoo! News Japan and other platforms like Twitter and Japanese Wikipedia that allow anonymity. They use the sites to spread historical revisionism and stoke xenophobic views of Korea and China."
  51. Lore Sjöberg, The Wikipedia FAQK. Wired, 19 April 2006.
  52. Wikipedia's "arbitration case" on "Manning naming dispute" (with sub pages)
  53. Trolls hijack Wikipedia to turn articles against gays
  54. How pro-fascist ideologues are rewriting Croatia's history
  55. Wikipedia decides Chelsea Manning will remain 'Bradley' for now
  56. Even Wikimedia's Sue Gardner is calling it out.
  57. Chelsea Manning gets put back in the closet by Wikipedia, New Statesman
  58. October 2013 move requestWikipedia
  59. Chelsea Manning name row: Wikipedia editors banned from trans pages, The Guardian
  60. Another editor has left Wikipedia following arguments over Chelsea Manning, Trans Media Watch
  61. German Wikipedia discussion on Chelsea Manning
  62. French Wikipedia discussion on the Wachowskis
  63. Wikipedia biases, The Guardian, 29 July 2018
  64. Academic writes 270 Wikipedia pages in a year to get female scientists noticed, The Guardian, 24 July 2018
  65. Where Are All The Women Artists? NMWA's Latest Campaign Aims To Find The Answer, Forbes, March 1, 2019
  66. 66.0 66.1 Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List, New York Times, Jan 31, 2011
  67. ore Like Dude-ipedia: Study Shows Wikipedia’s Sexist Bias, Fast Company, Feb 2, 2015
  68. Bewailing Wikipedia's white male bias, Eureka Street
  69. See the Wikipedia article on Circular reporting.
  70. Wikipedia Article creates Circular references, TechDebug, April 19, 2008
  71. Citogenesis, XKCD
  72. Science Is Shaped by Wikipedia: Evidence From a Randomized Control Trial by Neil Thompson & Douglas Hanley (Posted: 20 Sep 2017 Last revised: 16 Aug 2019) MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 5238-17.
  73. 73.0 73.1 Judges rely on Wikipedia for their opinions, a new study finds: We all use the online encyclopedia, but is it good that legal decisions make frequent use of its community-based scholarship? by Noam Cohen (August 5, 2022 at 2:31 p.m. EDT) The Washington Post.
  74. Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Eric van Viele
  75. Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Bont
  76. Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Synchronized Football
  77. Jar'Edo_Wens_hoax
  80. There are plenty of journals that claim peer-review but are nothing more than an "article mill" that will publish any paper sent to iteven those written by a computer program!
  81. Robert Currey, Wikipedia has been hijacked by 'guerrilla skeptics'!
  82. The "Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology"
  83. Also known as "a bias towards reality"
  85. diff
  86. Reddit discussion, NOT SAFE FOR WORK screenshot
  87. Because if you're using Wikipedia just for porn, you're plain Doing It Wrong.
  88. "Commons does not need you to drop your pants and grab a camera. If you want to, try to fill a real gap in our collection."
  89. Larry Sanger's complaint to Wikimedia Foundation
  90. Wikifounder reports Wikiparent to FBI over 'child porn', The Register
  91. Exchange between Sanger and Wikipedia attorney Mike Godwin (The Cliff's Notes version is Godwin's statement "Since you have expressed a disinclination either to understand the law or to discuss it, I won't trouble you further about your profound misunderstandings.")
  92. Dig that icon.
  93. Jimmy Wales wades into Wikipedia porn debate
  94. Are there pro big pharma & Monsanto shills on Wikipedia? You be the judge! by Joe (August 10, 2014 at 7:52) Tir na Saor (archived from 1 Oct 2014 05:50:48 UTC).
  96. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told Elon Musk "it is not for sale" after the Twitter owner accused the encyclopedia of having a "left-wing bias" - MSN
  97. "Press releases". Wikimedia Foundation. April 29, 2007. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  98. "Wikia launching human-powered search". C-net. January 6, 2008. 
  99. "Why Is This Man Smiling?". Fast Company. April 1, 2007. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  100. "Wales giving up on Wikia Search". C-net. March 31, 2009. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  101. "Knowledge Engine (Wikimedia Foundation)". Wikipedia. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  102. "Wikimedia Foundation to explore new ways to search and discover reliable, relevant, free information with $250,000 from Knight Foundation". Wikimedia Foundation. January 6, 2016. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  103. "Nov 2015 Board Minutes". Retrieved March 14, 2015. 
  104. "Resolution:James Heilman Removal". Dec. 28, 2015. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 
  105. "Meltdown at Wikipedia". Jan. 6, 2016. Retrieved March 14, 2016.