Wikipedia is pretty great. It contains virtually every piece of information mankind has ever known, available for you to read and learn from for free. It’s also editable by anybody, which leaves it massively open for abuse. Here are some of the most pathetic ways people have done exactly that.
10. Walmart Edits Its Own Page to Say it Pays Good Wages
If we were to tell you that Walmart pays terrible, awful wages, you’d likely roll your eyes and say, “well yeah, duh!” Well, Walmart’s Wikipedia entry would disagree, insisting that their average pay is just short of your average Hollywood A-lister.
We know this because a student, curious about who exactly was making Wikipedia edits, launched a handy service called “Wikipedia scanner” to find out. This service scans the edits made to a given Wikipedia page and links it to an IP address. Though it doesn’t tell you exactly who made the edit, it does tell you where they made it from. After literally a week of operation, it was discovered that dozens of companies had edited their own Wikipedia page to make themselves seem better.
Walmart was particularly brazen, making numerous edits removing criticisms of their low wages. This is more depressing than the other companies who did similar things with their own pages, simply because everyone already knows Walmart’s wages are terrible. It’s a joke so tired and clichéd you’ll probably see it on 9/GAG next week. It doesn’t matter if they edit it out — they’re still going to be the butt of every joke made about minimum wage.
9. The BBC Worker Who Called George Bush a Wanker via Wikipedia
We’re not done with Wikipedia Scanner quite yet, because there are just way too many awesome stories that came about as a result of it being created.
Now, one of the most edited Wikipedia pages of all time is George W. Bush’s. Out of all the times it has been edited or vandalized, perhaps the most pointless is the time a computer from the BBC offices changed Bush’s middle name from Walker to “Wanker.” That’s it — no biting swipe at Bush’s policies or the war in Iraq, just a single letter change that was no doubt changed back within seconds.
Keep fighting the good fight, BBC.
8. Arguing About Circumcision. For Over a Year
As mentioned above, there are several pages on Wikipedia that are fairly controversial. Perhaps one of the most controversial is the page on circumcision. Now, we’re not here to talk about the ethics behind circumcision, because holy crap have people spent a lot of time doing that on Wikipedia.
According to Wikipedia, the page is edited approximately 3 times a day, and thousands of times per year. We should point out that there are people who virtually spend all their free time editing this page. Say what you want about the act itself, but that’s a depressing amount of time to spend discussing the pros and cons of cutting the end of someone’s you-know-what off. Especially considering all the other cool stuff on Wikipedia.
7. Editing Your Own Wikipedia Page, Then Bragging About It
Imagine what your personal Wikipedia page would say. Chances are you’re imagining it being ever-so-slightly wrong, because virtually every Wikipedia page ever is slightly wrong. That’s part of their charm.
Lea Salonga didn’t agree though, and decided that she wanted to edit her own Wikipedia page to make it more accurate. Now, if she’d just quietly edited the page for the benefit of the six people who’d be interested in who she actually is, we wouldn’t be here talking about it. However, Lea didn’t do that. In the most blatant self-serving move since McDonald’s introduced “pour your own drink” machines, Lea announced the edits on Twitter and obnoxiously put a message at the top of the page saying she personally was editing it.
Lea, we can understand not wanting false information to be out there, but if you’re going to have a go at Wikipedia, DON’T IGNORE THEIR RULES when you decide to edit it to massage your own ego.
6. Abusing it for Pageviews
You may not know this, but Wikipedia is really popular. Just try searching for something online and we can guarantee that a Wikipedia article will be on the first page of Google results. Now, Wikipedia is strictly non-profit and they’ve gone on record in the past stating that there will never be ads there. Truly, it is one of the most enduring and morally firm stances a website has ever taken.
So of course there are people out there looking to abuse the crap out of it. Without getting too complicated, a link from Wikipedia to your website will end up with said site being more prominently rated by Google. Usually, Wikipedia asks people to link to articles from well-known or reputable sites to support its articles because no crap they want people to do that.
However, sites like this one recommend putting links to your own website onto Wikipedia, even offering advice to skirt around Wikipedia’s stringent rules on self-promotion. Now, we can’t definitively say that the people taking this advice are doing so for their own benefit, but when a possible source of revenue for your site is “abusing the trust of a website that gives people knowledge for free,” you’re not the one on the right side.
5. Having Other People Edit Your Own Wikipedia Page
Editing your own Wikipedia page is one thing, but having someone else edit it on your behalf is arguably way more depressing, because that’s the entry we’re putting higher on the list and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Over in Blightly, English newspapers grew a little suspicious when politician Chuka Umunna had a glowing Wikipedia entry detailing everything he’d ever done of any note, ever. Not only was the page incredibly detailed, noting everything from Chuka’s work to his education, but it was seemingly written from the perspective of either a rabid fan, or Chuka’s own mother. When someone looked into it and found that all of the edits and pages surrounding Chuka and his work had been done mostly by one person, they straight-up asked Chuka if he was the one responsible. Mostly because the person making the edits seemingly had information only someone close to him would have.
Chuka’s stock and remarkably politician-like response was that it must have been a member of his staff. So there are literally only three possible explanations for this: Chuka edited the page himself and had to deny it, someone with an unhealthy obsession with an English politician wrote it out of pure admiration, or Chuka paid someone to make him seem awesome on a website that is honor-bound to be impartial. We’ll let you decide which one it is.
4. Copying a Fake Quote from Wikipedia
Plagiarizing from Wikipedia would almost certainly get you told off in an educational setting. If you were in school, you’d no doubt be severely punished. In college, you’d probably be given an incredibly stern warning, and in university you’d likely be expelled instantly. Because seriously, that should never be tolerated.
Unless you’re a journalist practicing “churnalism,” the act of copying masses of text from Wikipedia or a similar source and passing it off as your own work. Now, we’re not going to begrudge someone for using Wikipedia as a jumping-off point, because it’s purposely written to be accessible. Plus, more often than not, it serves as an excellent rundown of whatever it is you’re researching. But seriously, click those little blue words at the bottom and do some further research, because learning is awesome!
Shane Fitzgerald, Irish student and owner of the most Irish name this side of Sheamus O’Potato McRiverdance, decided to see just how many people would copy from Wikipedia without checking their source and upon hearing famed composer, Maurice Jarre had died, he quickly edited his Wikipedia page to feature the following completely made-up quote: “When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head, that only I can hear.”
Unbelievably, dozens of supposedly reputable news sites copied the quote without so much as a cursory Google search to confirm that Jarre actually freaking said that. Virtually everyone who wrote an article featuring that quote based their entire article on Maurice’s Wikipedia entry, and for supposed paid journalists, that’s just sad.
3. Copying from Wikipedia in a Report on Press Ethics
Following on from the entry above, “churnalism” is such a big deal that it was agreed something needed to be done about it. In response, the UK’s Lord Justice Leveson was tasked with writing a report on the problem. In it, he made passing reference to British newspaper The Independent being partially founded by one Brett Straub. This information was of course, false. A friend of Brett’s had put his name on several Wikipedia articles as a joke, even listing him as the inventor of Coca-Cola.
Now, we should point out that Brett’s friend had only put his name on Wikipedia, so literally the only way for Leveson to get that information was for him to have copy/pasted it from the site without fact-checking it. Again, on a report about press ethics. When contacted about it, Leveson and his people declined to comment, but since Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, we could make him say anything we want, if you think about it.
2. Vandalizing the Same Entry, Over and Over Again
Wikipedia keeps an extensive record of who edits an entry and what they change. This is necessary so if someone simply changes the entry on dyslexia to be nothing but garbled words (people actually do that,) it can quickly be changed back.
Interestingly, there are a number of entries that are vandalized extensively. Some of the most vandalized topics are Macintosh, Harry Potter, stingrays, Nirvana, and Kazakhstan. Seriously, do any of those topics seem like something any reasonable person should get worked up about? In the case of stingrays, there are grand sweeping edits going back and forth on whether or not it’s important to note that Steve Irwin was killed by one. How sad does your life have to be to argue about whether or not it’s important to single out stingrays for murder on their own Wikipedia page?
1. An Obscure Rock Band with an Entry Longer Than the One About the Beatles
Many bands on Wikipedia have reasonably long Wikipedia entries. In the case of bands like Metallica and the Beatles, their contribution to music is so great they need all those extra words. However, there are some entries that are clearly written by the bands themselves, because the band is the only one who knows the band even exists.
For example, consider Old Crow Medicine Show. Never heard of them? Well ,if the length of their Wikipedia page is anything to go by, they’re bigger than the ghost of John Lennon playing a duet with Michael Jackson. The band’s page is so obviously a thinly-veiled marketing ploy, Microsoft probably wants to patent it. We don’t think hitmen need this much information on somebody. Seriously, there may as well be a section containing the band members’ tax returns — it’s that insane. It’s even worse when you realize that the mammoth 5,800 edits made to it were made almost entirely by a single person.