Wikipedia vandalism could thwart hoax-busting on Google, YouTube and Facebook

Daniel Funke at Poynter: “For a brief moment, the California Republican Party supported Nazism. At least, that’s what Google said.

That’s because someone vandalized the Wikipedia page for the party on May 31 to list “Nazism” alongside ideologies like “Conservatism,” “Market liberalism” and “Fiscal conservatism.” The mistake was removed from search results, with Google clarifying to Vice News that the search engine had failed to catch the vandalism in the Wikipedia entry….

Google has long drawn upon the online encyclopedia for appending basic information to search results. According to the edit log for the California GOP page, someone added “Nazism” to the party’s ideology section around 7:40 UTC on May 31. The edit was removed within a minute, but it appears Google’s algorithm scraped the page just in time for the fake.

“Sometimes people vandalize public information sources, like Wikipedia, which can impact the information that appears in search,” a Google spokesperson told Poynter in an email. “We have systems in place that catch vandalism before it impacts search results, but occasionally errors get through, and that’s what happened here.”…

According to Google, more than 99.9 percent of Wikipedia edits that show up in Knowledge Panels, which display basic information about searchable keywords at the top of results, aren’t vandalism. The user who authored the original edit to the California GOP’s page did not use a user profile, making them hard to track down.

That’s a common tactic among people who vandalize Wikipedia pages, a practice the nonprofit has documented extensively. But given the volume of edits that are made on Wikipedia — about 10 per second, with 600 new pages per day — and the fact that Facebook and YouTube are now pulling from them to provide more context to posts, the potential for and effect of abuse is high….(More)”.