Reliable Source? Hacked Wikipedia Swaps Trump's Picture to Vulgar Photo

December 4th, 2018 2:44 PM

Wikipedia is considered by many in the media to be “the Internet’s greatest store of knowledge.” But what happens when that knowledge is compromised?

The information library is under siege from hackers who radically alter information on the site, according to a new article from The Verge. In the past month, Wikipedia has suffered three major hacks to administrator accounts, as well as several unnumbered hacks through old editing accounts. President Trump’s page seems to suffer the most, with multiple hackers changing his picture to one of a vulgar graphic image of genitalia.

The Verge noted that while administrator accounts are in charge of running Wikipedia, there are not many in upper management to keep those accounts in check. When the California GOP Wikipedia page was hacked, it’s philosophy was changed to “Naziism.” It was some time before this could be changed back. Wikipedia installed a two-factor authentication policy for admin accounts, but this new change did not stop hackers from infiltrating and changing information on President Trump’s page.

Not only was the President’s page hacked once, it was hacked several times over the course of two weeks. “At least five edits have been made to the Donald Trump page in the days since the initial attack,”  The Verge reported. Even though the page was then put under “extended confirmed protection,” hackers still found a way onto the page.

This is troubling, since Wikipedia is used by Google and YouTube for many of their products. Google Search pulls answers from Wikipedia, while YouTube uses the site to provide opposite arguments for those who are against climate change. Google Assistant and Siri both rely on Wikipedia. Since both companies, according to their about pages, try to moderate content in an objective and neutral fashion, it’s impossible to understand how Wikipedia is helping them by providing faulty information.

An administrator wrote on the Donald Trump page’s open edit forum, “I don’t know how many of these accounts the hacker has, but it’s a lot.”

Academics recommend that students and researchers avoid using Wikipedia, since it is not “a reliable source.” Why on earth are tech companies choosing to rely on the site?