A single Wikipedia account managed to display a huge swastika in tens of thousands of articles in the English-language edition of the online encyclopedia on Monday at short notice. Administrators were able to fix the problem within a few minutes, as can be seen on a discussion page. Accordingly, the pages were not edited individually, instead a template was vandalized that had been used on more than 50,000 pages. It was repaired, the account was locked indefinitely, further measures are still being discussed.
Lots of celebrity sites affected
The account, which had only been set up on August 10th and had behaved inconspicuously since then, damaged the template on Monday afternoon (CEST). This is embedded on more than 53,000 Wikipedia pages. A short time later these appeared bright red with a large swastika. Users reported the error confused, Those responsible on the side quickly identified the mistake. After a few minutes, it was resolved, affecting many English-language articles on celebrities, including the one about US President Joe Biden.
According to the Wikipdia debate afterwards, such widespread templates should actually be protected from such changes. In the specific case, one was apparently found that was overlooked. In the future, at least exactly this type of vandalism should no longer be possible, it is still said.
Vandalism in Wikipedia is not new and, due to the functionality of the page for which users are responsible, cannot be ruled out – and given the scope of the encyclopedia, it is not a major problem either. Individual pages are defaced again and again, but this is usually fixed quickly. It is quite unusual for tens of thousands of pages to be maliciously modified. Last year, the case of Wikipedia in Scots caused a stir: Apparently a single US user without any knowledge of the language had entered the majority of the articles in English and only exchanged individual words or combinations of letters. It had little to do with the Scottish language and was criticized as “cultural vandalism”.