Wikipedia vandal adds swastikas to 53,000 pages

Admins swiftly fixed the issue and banned the user behind the attack.

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Kris Holt
August 16th, 2021
In this article: news, gear, internet, vandalism, wikipedia
ANKARA, TURKEY - JANUARY 15: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) In this photo illustration, The logo of Wikipedia is seen on the screen of a laptop with a magnifying glass on January 15, 2021 in Ankara, Turkey. (Photo by Altan Gocher/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Wikipedia vandalism is hardly a new phenomenon, but one user was able to add swastikas to tens of thousands of articles. Among the pages that were defaced included ones for leaders such as President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister. Articles for celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck and Madonna were also affected.

The person responsible edited a template that's used on around 53,000 pages, Gizmodo reported. As such, the vandal defaced pages that are locked and supposed to have greater protection from such attacks. Wikipedia administrators fixed the problem soon after it emerged on Monday morning. The user has been banned indefinitely.

One admin noted that most widely used templates are locked, but it seems that some of them remain editable by anyone, or as in this case, a newish user who makes some good-faith edits first. Admins protected some more common templates in the wake of the vandalism.

The "unacceptable" attack "violates a number of Wikipedia’s policies," a Wikimedia Foundation spokesperson told Gizmodo. "Most vandalism on Wikipedia is corrected within five minutes, as we saw today." Even though the site is enormous and ever-evolving, it's encouraging that administrators are able to detect and resolve major defacement incidents swiftly.

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