Hoax Wikipedia Article on Colonial Indian Conflict Removed After 5 Years

By Cameron Scott 

A Wikipedia article rated “good” and first published in 2007 was recently revealed as a hoax and removed from the crowd-sourced encyclopedia.

Most hoaxes are marked for deletion within hours of being published, according to Wikipedia.

In December, a volunteer editor using the handle ShelfSkewed found the article and all of its sources to be fraudulent.

The article described a fictitious conflict — dubbed the Bicholm Conflict, after the Goan city — pitting the Portuguese rulers of Goa, India, against the Maratha Empire from 1640-41.

After initially suspecting the article was a hoax when s/he realized that the ISBN number of one of the books cited as a source didn’t make sense, ShelfSkewed consulted others who had actively edited the article and eventually removed it.

“I did not expect this thing to become such a big deal,” s/he said.

Early on, the article had been nominated to be a featured entry, but the required additional information was never submitted.

“It has been tried, tested, and confirmed—it is indeed possible to insert hoaxes into Wikipedia, just as it is possible to insert profanity. That goes along with the territory of being a free encyclopedia anyone can edit. A hoax is simply a more obscure, less obvious form of vandalism,” Wikipedia says in its user guidelines.

The longest-running hoax on Wikipedia was an entry describing Gaius Flavius Antonius, who supposedly participated in the assassination of Julius Caesar. That article was removed in July 2012, after running on the site for more than eight years.

Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, did not respond to a request for more information.

Photo: Anneka / Shutterstock.com