Wikipedia vandalism
December 10, 2006 8:16 PM   Subscribe

Someone is using tricky html code to vandalize Wikipedia entries. Can anyone look at a page in question and tell me how they are doing it?

I was looking up the Wikipedia page for Andy Warhol. If you look at the introduction, you'll see that at the end it reads "And also, he was a homosexual." Thinking this was not only awkward and unessesary but also probably a lame joke someone made, I went to edit it out. However the code on the edit page for that article doesn't have that text. I also copied it into Word and did a search through all the code for "homosexual", with no results.

How is this vandal doing this, and how do I edit it out? I've seen similar sentences in other Wikipedia entries, mostly about artists and writers (unfortunately I did not make notes of which ones they were when I saw them).
posted by pcameron to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, I don't see the text in question on the main page, which would explain why I don't see it on the edit page...

Taken your meds today? ;)
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:19 PM on December 10, 2006

I don't know how it is being done either, but it should warrant a mention on the discussion page for that entry.
posted by mathowie at 8:19 PM on December 10, 2006

btw, I'm seeing it at the end of the first paragraph, but I don't see it there on the edit page. I don't see any strange embedded HTML when viewing source on the entry, so something is out of whack on Wikipedia's end.
posted by mathowie at 8:20 PM on December 10, 2006

Looking at the history, here's a recent edit with dumb stuff thrown in. They rolled it back a version, but it still had that homosexual line in there.
posted by mathowie at 8:22 PM on December 10, 2006

Wow, people are jerks. I don't see the statement you reference, but now it says "Warhol is a fucking pisser" at the beginning of the film segment. I can't imagine what a hassle it must be to chase all those mischief-makers around and edit their copy.
posted by GaelFC at 8:22 PM on December 10, 2006

I don't know the details of wikipedia's server layout, but it's possible that the article page those of you are seeing with the "and also, he was a homosexual" is being served from a db that hasn't picked up the updated text yet. I doubt it's anything particularly tricky a vandal is doing.
posted by hades at 8:25 PM on December 10, 2006

The reason it's not in the edit source is because someone reverted the change almost immediately. But due to caching you may still be seeing an older copy. There's no HTML trickery here.
posted by grouse at 8:25 PM on December 10, 2006

I saw it when I viewed the page, and I haven't checked Wikipedia or anything on Andy Warhol in the past day.

I noticed it was the "AntiVandalBot" that made the revisions. Perhaps it's just an issue with their bot?
posted by Saydur at 8:28 PM on December 10, 2006

I went through the history and it was this edit that did it: 16:04 10 December 2006
posted by furtive at 8:29 PM on December 10, 2006

Sorry, 18:55
posted by furtive at 8:30 PM on December 10, 2006

Weird that different people are getting different results. Here's what I see (highlighty added, badly):

posted by pcameron at 8:30 PM on December 10, 2006

Whoops. Here's a link to the image.
posted by pcameron at 8:31 PM on December 10, 2006

Actually, I'm a bit confused... I fixed it when I removed the section robot Adding: bn:অ্যান্ডি ওয়ারহল Modifying: ru:Энди Уорхол) from 16:04
posted by furtive at 8:32 PM on December 10, 2006

Not weird at all, since Wikipedia uses cache servers which may provide different results to different people. Try adding ?action=purge to the end of your URL to purge the cache.
posted by grouse at 8:36 PM on December 10, 2006

A big thanks to everyone for answering so quickly. As long as there are more of us out there than there are bored teenagers in their basements...
posted by pcameron at 8:38 PM on December 10, 2006

I fixed it when I removed the section robot Adding: bn:অ্যান্ডি ওয়ারহল

Actually, this edit, which I assume you're talking about, didn't remove the homosexual comment, since it wasn't there to begin with.
posted by oaf at 9:44 PM on December 10, 2006

And the "homosexual" comment was removed eight hours before this thread was posted.
posted by oaf at 9:46 PM on December 10, 2006

I had a similar issue awhile back, can't recall the exact entry (something to do with Australopithecus), but there was a single line of complete nonsense so I went to edit, but it wasn't there. After a bit of back and forth it must have been removed at just microscopically to my attempt to edit
posted by edgeways at 10:21 PM on December 10, 2006

It's not the case here, but another way that I've seen vandals put words into pages without it appearing in the code is to edit a template, which means that the text will appear in every page that uses the template. Because it's in the template, it won't show up in the 'edit this page' code, and you won't see any change to the page if you've got it on your watchlist.
posted by Paragon at 12:49 AM on December 11, 2006

The caching mathowie's talking about could've been on Wikipedia's end. They've got a pile of points at which you might not see the absolute latest rev when you're reading (Web caches, database replication) but would when you're editing.

One way to handle it is to make a note of the problem on the Vandalism in Progress page. That'll draw the attention of people who do understand the quirks of Wikipedia to the problem.
posted by mendel at 4:32 AM on December 11, 2006

I noticed, yesterday, on another Wikipedia page three large pictures of penises (the article was nothing to do with anatomy or sex). I went to delete them but, like you, could not find them in the edit page. On refreshing, they had gone. I suspect someone else had deleted them before I got to the edit page and before I refreshed. Probably the same happened with your Warhol page.
posted by TheRaven at 4:47 AM on December 11, 2006

One way to handle it is to make a note of the problem on the Vandalism in Progress page.

Please don't leave a report on that page, but following the instructions can be helpful.
posted by grouse at 6:08 AM on December 11, 2006

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