A chapter in a book set for release in 2014, "The most controversial topics in Wikipedia: A multilingual and geographical analysis," collates data on the number of edits each articles received on the user-written online encyclopedia across a variety of languages, according to a report in Wired.
The data includes an analysis of controversial topics in the Hebrew Wikipedia edition, showing users mostly divided over religious sects and armed conflicts.
The only edition of Wikipedia in which the Israel entry was among the top 10 most contentious topics was the Czech one. Hitler only made the list in the German version. Nevertheless, when it came to controversy across languages, both were among the most contended topics, according to the chapter, pre-published online late last month at the ArXiv website.
"The Spanish and Czech (as well as all languages in our sample apart from Hungarian, Romanian, Japanese, and Chinese) include articles in Israel as some of those characterised by the greatest amount of conflict," the researchers wrote. The preoccupation with the Middle East, they said, was an exception to the general rule that each version of Wikipedia tended to deal with local or culture-specific issues.
Researchers, led by Oxford's Taha Yasseri, also found that " the Israel and Adolf Hitler pages are the most highly contested pages" in all three groupings into which they had divided the languages under examination.
In Hebrew, the most controversial topics were based around the Chabad Hasidic sect, though the 2006 Lebanon War, an entry titled "Gaza War," Benjamin Netanyahu and the left-wing B'Tselem NGO also prove highly divisive, according to the research.
When comparing the most contested topics between the Hebrew, Farsi and Arabic versions of the encyclopedia, the researchers discovered that a number of articles served as battlefields. "Gaza war," "Israel" and "Islam" were being constantly edited in all three languages. The information related to Hitler was being fought over on the Farsi and Hebrew pages, while Arabic users seemed to find consensus.
Other Wikipedia articles that ranked high in contentiousness include "God," "Atheism," "Circumcision" and "Jesus."
Aside from Yasseri, the paper was authored by Anselm Spoerri from Rutgers University, Mark Graham from Oxford and Janos Kertesz Budapest University.
The chapter will be included in "Global Wikipedia: International and cross-cultural issues in online collaboration," to be published by Scarecrow Press next year.