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Fri Jan 4, 2013, 11:23 AM

 

After a half-decade, massive Wikipedia hoax finally exposed

By Kevin Morris
The Daily Dot
Jan 1, 2013

Up until a week ago, here is something you could have learned from Wikipedia:

From 1640 to 1641 the might of colonial Portugal clashed with India's massive Maratha Empire in an undeclared war that would later be known as the Bicholim Conflict. Named after the northern Indian region where most of the fighting took place, the conflict ended with a peace treaty that would later help cement Goa as an independent Indian state.


Except none of this ever actually happened. The Bicholim Conflict is a figment of a creative Wikipedian's imagination. It's a huge, laborious, 4,500 word hoax. And it fooled Wikipedia editors for more than 5 years.

But even exposed and deleted, Wikipedia's influence over the Web is such that the Bicholim Conflict continues to persist, like a resilient parasite.

The perpetrator of the hoax is a mystery. Wikipedia admins deleted the edit history along with the article. Users of the Wikipediocracy forum have pinned down a likely suspect, however, a Wikipedian who went by the handle "A-b-a-a-a-a-a-a-b-a." He or she authored a big chunk of the article's text, and also nominated it for "featured Article" standing in October 2007.

More: http://www.dailydot.com/news/wikipedia-bicholim-conflict-hoax-deleted/

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Arrow 10 replies Author Time Post
Reply After a half-decade, massive Wikipedia hoax finally exposed (Original post)
UnrepentantLiberal Jan 2013 OP
demwing Jan 2013 #1
reACTIONary Jan 2013 #8
Cal33 Jan 2013 #9
bemildred Jan 2013 #2
Arctic Dave Jan 2013 #3
xtraxritical Jan 2013 #5
UnrepentantLiberal Jan 2013 #7
jsr Jan 2013 #4
kenny blankenship Jan 2013 #6
Jim Lane Jan 2013 #10

Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 11:38 AM

1. I know a person who created a false biography on Wikipedia

used his own name (he has a very unusual name), but changed the date of birth by exactly 100 years, and claimed this imaginary person was a newspaper reporter and poet based in 19th century San Francisco.

If you were to Google that person's name (I'm not telling!), a handful of other sites pop up and cite that fake Wiki article as a source, including one "This Date in History" site (listing the imaginary person's birth), and at least 2 different "Baby Names for Boys" sites that suggests this person's unusually spelled name, and gives his false bio as a reference.

The Internet was supposed to bring us better access to information. Instead, it hides accurate data in a sea of immediately available nonsense.

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Response to demwing (Reply #1)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 09:02 PM

8. Let me guess: William Randolph Hearst (LOL, NT)

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Response to demwing (Reply #1)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 10:40 PM

9. Yes, there are and always will be people who take sadistic joy in ruining a good idea for everybody.

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 12:14 PM

2. That's not massive. 4500 words is far from massive.

And somebody probably looked at it once 5 years ago and nobody has ever checked it again until today.

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 12:45 PM

3. It's like the NRA/Civil Rights myth.

 

creat a ficticous story of how the NRA helped promote the Civil Rights Movement by helping AA get training and guns then link to it over and over.

However, when you start to look for other proof, there is none.

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Response to Arctic Dave (Reply #3)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 06:10 PM

5. Sure everbody knows what you mean by AA.

 

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Response to xtraxritical (Reply #5)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 08:38 PM

7. African American

 

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 12:48 PM

4. Good one

LOL.

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 07:09 PM

6. More like a clerical error: change Maratha's assailant to Uqbar

and the story is essentially correct - as far as it goes. The complete history of the Bicholom conquest of Maratha by Uqbar runs to some thirty six volumes, thirty of which are dedicated to the process by which Uqbar carried out its colonization under the assumed identity of Portugal and then carefully effaced all recorded evidence of its previous independent existence as a nation separate from Maratha, and a once great and feared imperial power of the world. The invader assimilated to and vanished within its host completely, and seeded a crypto-history of a Portuguese empire as a further precaution against discovery.

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 11:25 PM

10. This reflects a well-known feature of Wikipedia.

An article on a topic of wide interest is much more thorough and much more reliable than an article that only a handful of people will read.

When someone puts something silly in a widely watchlisted article like Obama's bio, it's reverted in seconds. In the article about the Scottsboro Boys, a bit of adolescent silliness stayed for a couple months. The Scottsboro Boys are no longer front-page news but they're still of much more widespread interest than something about seventeenth-century India, where it's not surprising that bad material could stay for years.

Some academic researchers have deliberately vandalized Wikipedia articles to see what happens. Their dubious experiments have confirmed what experienced Wikipedians know. As one put it (I'm paraphrasing something I read long ago): Drop trash on our front lawn and it will be picked up immediately. Drop trash around the side of the house and it will be picked up soon. Drop trash out back behind the garage and it will stay there for a while.

Practical tips: If you read a Wikipedia article on a topic you're completely unfamiliar with, click on "Discuss this page" to see what editors are saying about the article or particular points in it, and/or click on "Page history" to see how many different people have edited it. These will help you assess the reliability of what you read. That the Wikipedia article is cited, quoted, or mirrored on some other site is, alas, not a particularly useful indicator, as the Bicholim example demonstrates.

If anyone's interested, here's the Wikipedia discussion when the article was proposed for deletion last month: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Bicholim_conflict

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