How Crazy Was Last Year? The 15 Most Controversial Wikipedia Articles Paint a Dark Picture

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A gallery assistant working on a waxwork of U.S. President Donald Trump in the Madame Tussauds wax museum in Berlin, October 17, 2017.
A gallery assistant working on a waxwork of U.S. President Donald Trump in the Madame Tussauds wax museum in Berlin, October 17, 2017.Credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH/REUTERS
Omer Benjakob
Omer Benjakob

Media outlets around the world recently compiled their annual stories on the most popular Wikipedia articles of the year. The 2017 list – topped by the likes of U.S. President Donald Trump and TV shows such as Game of Thrones and The Crown – reflected more than anything a culture of binge-watching.

There is an underlying issue with these types of listicle. Much like those in the You wont believe what people Googled this year! genre, they are low on information and only tell us what we already know – that people (especially Americans) like watching TV.

So, with all due respect to Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot (the 15th most popular Wikipedia subject last year), weve put together an alternative list* of the most contentious and hotly debated articles on Wikipedia in 2017.

These reflect a much darker world, one filled with Trumpian politics, terror attacks and conspiracy theories...

Donald Trump

Unsurprisingly, Trumps page was among the most viewed and most debated on Wikipedia. One of the most long-standing discussions on his page: What picture should be used? His hair in Picture E is also combed and more structured than in Picture C, which to be honest looks like a rats nest.

Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections

This article, which splintered off from the main Trump entry, remains the main arena of contention between pro- and anti-Trump advocates on Wikipedia. The Pee Tape seems to have no mention anywhere on Wikipedia, including in this article, wrote one. Knock it of [sic] with the gratuitous vulgarity. This is an encyclopedia, not a locker room, wrote another.

A couple kissing in front of graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S President Donald Trump kissing, in Vilnius, Lithuania.Credit: Mindaugas Kulbis/AP

Macedonia (ancient kingdom)

Ownership battles between Greeks and Macedonians over their shared history in the Balkans have ripped this historical article to shreds, as both sides claim Alexander the Greats legacy as their own: Only the ultra-nationalists of the Republic of Macedonia are trying to associate ancient Macedonia with the modern Slavic country, not Republic of Macedonia collectively.

Stanley Kubrick

An example of what happens when two Wikipedia editors get into a massive fight (over a year and half, and counting) about the simplest and most mundane of issues: Should the great film director get an infobox at the top of his article?

2017 Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

Five people were killed when a former National Guard officer opened fire at Floridas Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Among the issues debated about the mass shooting were whether the gunman was Muslim (he wasnt) and what type of gun was used: The story reads that the FBI identified the pistol used as a Glock 9mm. Upon further inspection of the photos it appears to probably be a Walther PPS M1.

2017 Istanbul nightclub shooting

The terror attack that ushered in the last new year remained hotly debated throughout 2017, rife with arguments about Islamic State and rampant with conspiracy theories about Turkey.

Pizzagate conspiracy theory

This page centers on the widely debunked conspiracy theory according to which John Podesta – the top aide to Hillary Clinton embroiled in the WikiLeaks email hack – was somehow involved in a pedophile ring operating from a D.C. pizzeria. A North Carolina man even opened fire at the pizza joint in December 2016 in the hopes of seeing for himself whether the Democrats were harboring child sex slaves there: Some conspiracy theorists believed that the shooting was a staged attempt to discredit their investigations, one wrote in a comment reflective of how the post-truth discourse has spilled into the encyclopedia.

John Podesta speaking to members of the media outside Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's home in Washington, October 5, 2016.Credit: Andrew Harnik / AP

2017 Chicago torture incident

The case of the Facebook four – a group of African-American youths who abused a white teen with disabilities and live streamed it on Facebook – also garnered heated debate, with many attempting to cast it as an anti-Trump hate crime against whites: The perpetrators stated that the victim represents Trump, one user wrote, after trying to change the articles text to claim the attack was one of several attacks that were either anti-Trump or had anti-Trump elements to it.

Anatole Klyosov

Who needs fake Russian news when you have fake Russian scientists? Klyosov is the father of a pseudoscience called DNA genealogy – an unholy amalgam of genetics, anthropology and linguistics that aims to debunk the Out of Africa hypothesis. Instead, Klyosovs patriotic science, as he calls it, stipulates that human evolution began in you guessed it, Russia. Wikipedians, much like the Western scientific community, were unimpressed: Genealogy? More like DNA demagoguery.


From debates about the prominence of Ontario to the role of the French language and Canadas ties to the British commonwealth, Canadians on Wikipedia were busy making their article great again – including asking themselves whether their country really is a democracy.

Jacob Barnett

A child genius with autism currently working on his PhD in theoretical physics, Barnetts article was deleted no fewer than four times. Despite multiple stories about his intellect, Wikipedians were less than impressed: The only thing we can say about the subject with any intellectual honesty is that he is known for the false claims that he would soon overthrow Einstein.

Donald Trump – Russia dossier

Published by BuzzFeed, the so-called Steele Dossier about Trump and the alleged compromising information the Russians have on him was one of the years biggest news stories – and supporters of the U.S. president fought tooth and nail to have it expunged from Wikipedia. What [do] we have in terms of reality about Russian interference? A fake dossier paid by Trumps enemies, claimed one editor, while another asserted that We know the Clinton Campaign and DNC were behind the dossier. Another wondered: Why doesnt Putin just use the pee-pee tape to make Trump stop?


Who controls the past controls the future, wrote George Orwell in his ever timely novel 1984, and Wikipedia is no exception: One of 2017s most contentious articles was 2016 – an article that strove to summarize last years year. George Michael was a global figure whos [sic] music will be heard by many generations to come he deserves his photo in the December section, one wrote.

File photo of George Michael in September 2012. His death prompted much discussion on the 2016 Wikipedia page.Credit: Francois Mori/AP

Fake news website

The Wikipedia article for fake news websites has a useful corresponding list that will help you steer clear not only of Alex Jones InfoWars, but also, Denver Guardian and the tellingly named RealTrueNews. Stay smart, 2018 isnt looking much simpler.


From claims that acupuncture is useless to cries of cultural appropriation, the article for this ancient technique also inspired controversy in 2017 – so much that its seemingly neutral page was locked to anonymous editing. Acupuncture is Chinese medicine. This article is racist because it asserts that acupuncture is alternative medicine. Any attempt to stigmatize and delegitimize something on the basis of its cultural and ethnic origins is the definition of racism. Another person lamented that it was utterly appalling that skeptics who are totally ignorant of the clinical practice of acupuncture are participating here.

*Methodology: This partial list is an aggregation of the most edited Talk Pages of 2017 on Wikipedia. Currently, there is no standard metric for judging an articles contentiousness, and talk page activity is taken as an indication of ongoing and substantial debates. The list omitted two articles for brevity: Wikipedias main page (#4) and United States presidential election, 2016 (#12).

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