Wikipedia’s 10 Most Controversial Topics


Jamie Condliffe – Give a bunch of scientists a dataset like Wikipedia to play with, and it’ll keep ’em amused for a long old time.

Now, a team of researchers from Oxford University have mined the rich seam to work out the ten most internationally controversial topics on the online encyclopedia.

By analyzing edit wars—where one editor changes a section, only for another to instantly change it again—across Wikipedia in ten different languages, Taha Yasseri and his team were able to work out the top ten most controversial topics across the globe.

Clearly defining edit wars is a little tricky, but Yasseri settled on using “mutual reverts”—where one editor completely undoes changes made by another, and then vice versa. The overall effect is that both editors are consistently undoing each other’s changes. That provides a definition of controversiality, as the team explains:

“The controversiality of an article is defined by summing the weights of all mutually reverting editor pairs, excluding the topmost pair, and multiplying this number by the total number of editors involved in the article.” But anyway, let’s get to the part you’re waiting for. The top ten. According to Yasseri, the most controversial topics are:

1. George W Bush

2. Anarchism

3. Muhammad

4. List of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. employees

5. Global Warming

6. Circumcision

7. United States

8. Jesus

9. Race and intelligence

10. Christianity

Clearly controversial topics vary with time, though—so the next step is to look at the dynamics of the system. Maybe George W Bush won’t top the list forever.

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