Wikipedia articles can always be changed quickly by vandals. In most cases, vandalism takes the form of relatively innocuous edits that can be edited quite easily. In other cases, someone can create a page for a concept, event, person, or item that doesn’t or never actually existed. This is one of the major criticisms of Wikipedia is that many pages can be vandalized with little or no oversight. In general, most of these vandalisms are obviously fake and can be excised within moments after being introduced.
One recent edit showed just how much reverence United States’ hockey fans had for the sport. In a recent Olympic match between the United States and Russia, T.J. Oshie, a center for the U.S. team, became a national hero when he scored a game-winning shootout goal for the States against Russian goalkeeper Sergei Bobrovsky. The February 15 game became a major talking point for many U.S. fans, and they took to Wikipedia to dole out their adoration to the newly crowned king of American hockey. Oshie’s Wikipedia page received a number of very interesting updates, including one that called him “an American hero” and another that attributed Oshie with singlehandedly defeating communism.
Obviously, these a goodhearted edits and ones that are borne out of national pride. As of writing, the edits on Oshie’s Wikipedia page have been excised, although a brief mention of his shootout goal still makes the cut. Oshie is just one example of people getting excited about an event or a person and taking to Wikipedia to air their exuberance. These kinds of edits are generally easy to spot and easy to fix for any editors, and they make for a good laugh for any American hockey fans.
Another recent example of otherwise innocuous vandalism occurred on the Wikipedia page for the Australian version of The Biggest Loser. The television tracks individuals on their intensive weight loss journeys and is one of the most popular reality competition shows worldwide. Each season of the show ends with a winner (dubbed “the biggest loser”) who lost the most body mass. Earlier this month, the Wikipedia page for the show appeared to leak the winner of season 9, even though only a few episodes had aired. Caitlin Murray, a 17 year-old contestant, was said to have won the season with a total body mass loss of 48.12%.
For fans of the show who don’t want to be spoiled, don’t worry too much. The edit on Wikipedia was shown to be a hoax, especially considering that Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, and Seth Rogen were all listed as other contestants. The vandalism was quickly corrected and the management at the TV program issued a statement verifying that the edits were a hoax.
These are, of course, two lighthearted examples of Wikipedia vandalism that have been corrected quickly and only caused a few chuckles from those involved. Unfortunately, Wikipedia vandalism can be much more harmful than these examples. If a fraudulent and potentially libelous edit is allowed to stand on Wikipedia for any period of time, then it could tarnish the reputation of certain individuals. For the most part, edits on Wikipedia are checked for reliability by Wikipedia’s editors. That’s why, for the most part, brief alterations to the content of a page are all you will see.