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GleaningsGleanings

July 29, 2014

The Seven Wikipedia Topics More Controversial Than Jesus

Researchers identify one prophet, one sport, one country, and one former U.S. president.

The results of Wikipedia's "edit wars" are in: Former president George W. Bush is the most controversial topic in the English language.

That's according to Cornell researchers who ranked the web's most controversial topics according to their editing history on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that anyone—and everyone—can edit. They broke the data down into general language sets, and the list of the top 10 most controversial topics in English are as follows:

  1. George W. Bush
  2. Anarchism
  3. Muhammad
  4. List of WWE personnel
  5. Global warming
  6. Circumcision
  7. United States
  8. Jesus
  9. Race and intelligence
  10. Christianity

While Jesus and Christianity both make appearances, they're apparently less controversial than anarchism, the prophet Muhammad, and professional wrestlers.

How can that be? According to Mashable, the researchers first listed topics based on "'mutual reverts,' in which one editor reverts another's work and vice versa—so both editors have undone each other's changes." Then, to determine a topic's "controversiality," they examined the number of mutual reverts against the number of total people editing a topic.

In other words: the more editors and the more passive-aggressive editing, the more controversy.

The researchers say they're primarily interested in the data for what it reveals about socio-political differences and similarities across languages and cultures. They note that "local" topics and conflicts often are highly contested within particular regional language groups, but almost all topics are related to religion, politics, or geography.

Across all language sets, Jesus appears most frequently of all topics, ranking among the top 10 in the English, German, French, and Czech versions of Wikipedia. It's notable that Jesus is one of the most controversial topics in the Czech Wikipedia, considering that the Czech Republic is one of the most heavily atheist countries in the world.

CT previously has reported on many of Wikipedia's other controversial topics, including Muhammad, the United States, George W. Bush, circumcision, and even WWE professional wrestling.

In addition, CT has reported on other research about our Internet habits, including the fact one of "America's favorite sins" is spending too much time consuming media.