As if there weren’t already enough anxiety-inducing things on the internet, a variety of Wikipedia pages were replaced by large swastikas on a red background Monday morning. It’s unclear how many Wikipedia pages were affected by the issue — the swastikas have now been removed.
Wikipedia tells Input that the swastikas displayed after someone vandalized a wiki template for page functionality. Volunteers were able to spot the problem and revert it within five minutes’ time.
That was fast — The very loud swastikas were up for only a very short period of time. Wikipedia makes very, very fast work of cleaning its pages of hate and disinformation. That kind of speed and efficiency is increasingly rare; most platforms wait much longer before dealing with these issues, even when widespread.
A Wikipedia spokesperson told Input via email:
Thank you for reaching out to the Wikimedia Foundation. This type of behavior is unacceptable on Wikipedia and violates a number of Wikipedia’s policies. Volunteer administrators have already fixed the vandalism, blocked the account responsible, and will further evaluate the situation to see if additional recourse is needed.
For more context, on 16 August 2021, a wiki template used to support page functionality was vandalized on English Wikipedia. This resulted in a Nazi flag appearing for a few minutes on a number of articles covering a diverse range of topics. The vandalism was reverted by Wikipedia volunteers within five minutes, and the template was protected from additional negative behavior by volunteer administrators within fifteen minutes. In the spirit of open editing and assuming good faith, this is a step rarely taken with any areas of Wikipedia unless an incident such as this warrants it.
This particularly vile action – a form of vandalism on Wikipedia – is something Wikipedia volunteers have experience with. Over the years, a number of tools and processes have been developed to quickly spot and revert vandalism on the site. Most vandalism on Wikipedia is corrected within five minutes, as we saw today.
Somewhat widespread — The apparent hack took over at least a handful of pages across Wikipedia. Input noticed the swastika on Johnny Depp’s page around 9:52 a.m.; by 9:53 the page had reverted to its previous form. The page’s revision history says that no changes have been made since August 6.
Twitter user @sivasskumar tweeted this morning that he noticed the swastika on Raj Kapoor’s page. Ann Coulter tweeted about seeing the swastika on Edie Sedgwick’s page and claimed the entire site had been hacked — her mentions are now filled with people pointing out that the page is back to normal. Another user reported seeing it on Donald Sutherland’s page.
We’re thankful, at least, that Wikipedia’s volunteers took care of the problem so quickly that many people think Ann Coulter is lying about it.
Updated 8.16.21 at 1 pm to include Wikipedia’s statement and remove all swastika images, at Wikipedia’s request.