Vandalism experiment on Wikipedia
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Duration (days)More edits prior to detectionEstimated Page ViewsSource for false contentLegitimate edits to disguise falsehoodNotes
Those interested in Gregory Kohs' summary of this experiment should visit:
Contact info: -or- (484) NEW-WIKI
Chenango Canal chief engineer of the canal from John B. Jervis to Nathaniel Henry Hutton.14:26, 3 February 2015Yes306600NoneYesAn editor (User:Hlkliman) soon made several edits to the article without noticing the vandalism. Presumably this was Harvey L. Kliman, webmaster of the Chenango Canal Association website. Strangely, his edits were all reverted by an automated bot account (User:XLinkBot), . Article was later corrected by User:Wade lallier (Wade Lallier is a New York state corrections officer). As I was closing down the experiment and reverting my misinformation, I left a comment about Kliman and Lallier on the article's Talk page. The comment was "oversighted" by an administrator because it was "outing" the editors' real names, and the Arbitration Committee determined that I should be blocked from any further corrections of my vandalism (with only 8 of the 30 articles addressed). When I privately asked Kliman if he would agree to be interviewed for a story about the vandalism, he refused.
Colin Hilton a fictitious career end at Marylebone Cricket Club, for 3 years.22:47, 4 February 2015No551140FeintNoUser:Hell in a Bucket reverted the removal of the vandalism within 12 minutes, apparently fooled by the presence of a "source" and later explained that this is what "assume good faith" demands. Here is a photo of Hell in a Bucket, a man named Jake who is an avowed marijuana smoker and fan of the Grateful Dead:
Rufus Barringer the recipient of a letter penned by Abraham Lincoln, from Edwin Stanton to Stanton's clerk, Albert E. H. Johnson.14:16, 5 February 2015No550395FeintYesPhony reference to real "source" for content.
David Mathison career of a namesake senior police officer to the subject, who is a new media specialist.13:38, 9 February 2015No510190GenuineNoLegitimate reference to a real "David Mathison", just not the one memorialized by Wikipedia (a namesake). This article was the scene of active involvement by Jimmy Wales in mid-2013. The subject asserted to me then that the biography was not written by anyone he knew, but evidence I obtained privately proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the article was authored by User:Venndiagram8, a paid PR consultant for Mathison's publisher, working in close cooperation with User:BeTheMedia (Mathison's trademark brand). I selfishly wanted to see if Mathison or Wales were still closely watching this biography, but it seems that they are not. Hell in a Bucket reverted my removal of the vandalism here, too.
Basil Hiley that a quantum physicist's mother worked as a travel agent for the British Raj in India.13:03, 11 February 2015No4921530NoneNoArticle was later edited by two Wikipedia hyper-editors, User:Nihiltres and User:John of Reading. Neither of them caught the falsehood. Hell in a Bucket put the vandalism back into this one, too.
Made In India an article about a television show about India, asserted that according to legend, the medieval Buddhist monk Bodhidharma witnessed a virgin maiden who did not want to marry her betrothed, so Bodhidharma turned the groom into a goldfish, then bedded the virgin himself.13:34, 12 February 2015No480800FeintYesPhony reference to real "source" for content, plus added legitimate information with real source. Article was previously unsourced, and tagged as such, so vandalism also added beneficial content and removed the "This article does not cite any references or sources" tag. And again, Hell in a Bucket was there to restore the vandalism.
Koegel Meat Company a legitmate source for the Wikipedia article about a meat company, embellishing the information to the point of falsehood; e.g., that the company used to sell 234 truckloads of a ham product that was discontinued due to declining popularity.23:39, 12 February 2015No480720GenuineYesActual source said, "We used to sell two, three, four truckloads of that ham a year", so this was changed to "234 truckloads". And where the news story said, "Kay Kotarski, who said she and her cats enjoyed the cooked ham", the vandalism said, "Burton resident Kay Kotarski feared for her cats, who dined with her on the ham." Edit summary: "rewording". Hell in a Bucket felt compelled to restore the vandalism to this one, too -- not once, but twice.
Sagami Railway that a WWI-era railroad in Japan was used to transport corn and fresh spicy shrimp along the Sagami River.13:53, 13 February 2015No471740FeintYesFalse content was disguised by general improvements to choppy wording in the article. Article was later edited by a Wikipedia hyper-editor, User:DAJF, without catching the falsehood. Hell in a Bucket restored the vandalism here, too, before getting a "for heaven's sake" admonishment from an administrator.
Below this line are the edits that (if not already reverted by another editor) I would have reverted myself, but could not because my reverting account was banned by a Wikipedia administrator.
Voluntary euthanasia that a Beijing man was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison when he took his 88-year-old father, suffering from terminal liver cancer and an immune deficiency similar to AIDS, and pushed him from the roof of the 44-storey CCTV Headquarters building, at his father's previously videotaped request.12:24, 14 February 2015No48+010500+FeintYesFalse content was disguised by actual factual content, "Euthanasia is a criminal offense in China. For example, in [[Shanghai]] a 67-year-old man was sentenced to 5 years in prison when he euthanized his 92-year-old mother when she emerged from a hospital procedure only able to move one finger and one toe. The sentence was considered lenient, because he had displayed filial piety toward his mother.<ref>Annals of Bioethics: Regional Perspectives in Bioethics; by Mark J. Cherry and John F. Peppin; Taylor & Francis, Aug 10, 2005, [ page 253].</ref>"
Inflammation that pain from inflammation is caused by the body's release of rhyolite, an igneous, volcanic rock.14:13, 15 February 2015No47+9100000+NoneYesFalse content was disguised by various improvements to wording in the article, and with edit summary, "clean up, wording". Eight different editors subsequently modified the article, but none caught the falsehood. The falsehood appears in the upper few paragraphs of the article, which if even 10% of readers manage to read down to, makes this the edit that misinformed more people than any other.
Up in the Air (2009 film) that a scene was cut from the movie because an aerial view of the Detroit airport runways looked too much like a Nazi swastika.18:11, 15 February 2015No55+1372000+FeintNoFalse content may have gained some level of believeability, given an actual common belief that the runways at Denver International Airport look something like a swastika.
Hatteras, North Carolina,_North_Carolina&diff=647399238&oldid=639953737Claimed that the Sanderling resort is owned by Kelly McGillis.14:21, 16 February 2015No54+21600+FeintYesFalse content may have gained some level of believeability, given that McGillis has been a restaurant owner, in Key West, for example.
Paper bag that an early manufacturer of paper bags had two assistants who lost thumbs in cutting accidents, and yet another worker who suffered the loss of his fourth toe on his left foot when trying to unjam a stuck blade; but the owner of the firm supported each of the injured employees financially with a generous pension as compensation.22:49, 16 February 2015No54+07000+FeintYesSurprising that such a gruesome (and detailed!) story about an industrial accident would not be caught by over 7,000 readers.
Dance music that in dance halls in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota women would cook up large vats of [[bratwurst]] in the middle of the dance floor, and men would wax their handlebar moustaches in back rooms.12:51, 18 February 2015Yes2108200NoneNoA good example of a foolish statement without any "source" and without any legitimate edits to disguise the damage. It was reverted, but only after three weeks.
Allison Engine Company a 12-cylinder American airplane engine into a Nazi German rocket, and gratuitously added an Elvis Costello lyric from the song "Allison".22:30, 18 February 2015No56+05500+NoneYesOne minute after the phony edit, a follow-up edit to simply "wikilink" one of the falsehood words probably helped to disguise the vandalism, because patrollers often look only at the "most recent" edit, and if all appears kosher, there is no cause for alarm.
Pinophyta the phony "Evergreenisaurus" and changed "yews" to "yews guys".03:46, 19 February 2015Yes0.05034NoneNoI chose this article because it was recently "corrected" by the Giraffedata "comprised of" compulsive editor, made famous by the news media last month. It represented one of the quickest reversions.
Chundan Vallam that in an Indian boat race, there are displayed seven carcasses of Welsh Corgi dogs that have been sacrificed with a khanda sword heated to at least 400 degrees Fahrenheit.20:17, 19 February 2015Yes, then No47+2830+NoneYesThis was the only attempt to vandalize from a named User account, rather than an unlogged-in IP address. Even though the vandalizing account was correctly attributed as a suspicious sockpuppet ( ), the vandalism was not successfully cleared from Wikipedia until 10 days later. Further, I was then able to restore the vandalism again just 5 days after that, which has not been reverted. It is somewhat amusing that 14 days after the initial vandalism, another IP address editor came along to add, "(IS THIS TRUE???)" -- but that was reverted in a few seconds by ClueBot NG, which only served to preserve the vandalism.
Arctic Monkeys that the band took its name from a list of suggestions provided to them on the back of a bus schedule by then Prime Minister Tony Blair's household butler, who was a good friend of a member of the band.14:24, 20 February 2015Yes0.5075, plus 1200FeintNoIt's possible that the only reason the first reversion of the vandalism was made was because "no page" was cited in the book reference used as a feint. I returned early the next day to re-add the vandalism, this time with a page number and an additional source as a feint. A couple of generous editors helped to properly format my falsified sources, but alas, about 12 hours later, the same vandal reverter came by to undo the misinformation, saying it was "Not in source".
Rhineland-Palatinate that a phony German state agency regulates adult gentlemen's clubs.23:59, 20 February 2015Yes0.21187NoneNoAnother example of a quick reversion of vandalism.
Road bicycle racing that if the peloton (the main group of riders in a bicycle race) should split up, anything can happen, including fuel-coolant interactions or transitional demand (neither of which have anything to do with cycling).22:39, 23 February 2015Yes4619600NoneYesAdded a legitimate piece of content with a suitable reference, but also added the nonsense with no reference source. One minute after the phony edit, a follow-up edit to clarify a sentence probably helped to disguise the vandalism, because patrollers often look only at the "most recent" edit, and if all appears kosher, there is no cause for alarm.
Marmot that Menzbier's marmot was an egg-laying animal.22:32, 24 February 2015Yes0.430275NoneYesAnother example of a quick reversion of vandalism. One minute after the phony edit, a follow-up edit to clarify a sentence probably helped to disguise the vandalism, because patrollers often look only at the "most recent" edit, and if all appears kosher, there is no cause for alarm. In this case, I also made a supporting edit to another article, Menzbier's marmot, to try to add strength to the falsehood, but it was also reverted by the same editor.
Menzbier's marmot that Menzbier's marmot was the only egg-laying marmot.22:42, 24 February 2015Yes0.4207NoneNoSee notes for "Marmot".
Newcastle upon Tyne that Durham is northwest of Newcastle upon Tyne.22:37, 25 February 2015No46+7440000NoneYesFalse content was disguised by general improvements to other wording in the article. Though there were many subsequent edits and page views after this vandalism, the falsehood was buried deep in the article, and it was not visibly outlandish misinformation.
Copy testing that people who view especially disturbing advertisements may experience nightmares about them, waking in cold sweats, lashing out at illusory televisions.13:41, 26 February 2015No47+32500FakeYesFalse content was disguised by general improvements to other wording in the article.
Gap year that in Ecuador, students spend their gap year in ecotourism in the Galapagos Islands, but employers will not accept candidates wearing dread locks, piercings, or ripped clothing, so gap year workers will typically consent, though reluctantly, to keeping their hair short and wearing two- and three-piece suits (males) and formal evening wear (females) while leading hiking tours. Also, employers will not discriminate against body piercings that are not generally visible, such as frenum piercings, which are becoming more popular.23:25, 26 February 2015No47+1118000FeintNoThis is a good example of how silly misinformation can be accepted into Wikipedia, as long as the wording sounds like it was written by an educated adult, and there are "sources" to reference back to, even if the sources say no such thing.
Health care that a quarternary hospital will not typically make available frenum piercings for patients (which is probably true, but is a silly thing to document).13:43, 27 February 2015Yes0.05075NoneNoApologies for the apparent obsession with "frenum piercings", but it never ceases to amaze me that Wikipedia, which is provided at face value without filtering to people of all ages and moral values, has such an extensive article about such a peculiar sexual adornment.
Brine that magnesium chloride can cause infertility in squirrels, and nighttime bedwetting among adults of Scandinavian origin.14:13, 2 March 2015Yes202000FeintNoTruthfully noted that some road salts have been banned in certain jurisdictions, but went overboard with the squirrels and Scandinavians.
Henri Matisse that the artist went on a trip to Madagascar, rather than Corsica.13:13, 3 March 2015Yes0.00507NoneYesAnother example of a quick reversion of vandalism.
Nuclear fuel bank that a Russian fuel storage proposal called for 20 reactor loads, rather than two.22:50, 3 March 2015Partial40+2900+NoneYesWithin two days, another editor placed a "citation needed" flag on the vandalized claim, but the vandalism has not been reverted.
Mediterranean climate a rainfall record in the Mediterranean climate, entirely fictional, but a plausible scenario. Technically, the location of the fictional storm wasn't even in the Mediterranean climate geography.12:52, 4 March 2015No39+833000+FeintNoAs a finishing touch, I claimed that the fictional rain storm occurred on my birth date. Interesting to me is that nearly 4 weeks after my vandalism, another IP address came along and ramped up the vandalism, changing my "31 inches" of rainfall to (of course, the sexually-themed) "69 inches" of rainfall. But they reverted back to 31 inches within a minute. After another few days, a Turkish-based editor helped "improve" my vandalism by converting 31 inches to a template format and 790 mm.
Vandalized articles