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. 2011;6(6):e20902.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020902. Epub 2011 Jun 22.

Content Disputes in Wikipedia Reflect Geopolitical Instability

Free PMC article

Content Disputes in Wikipedia Reflect Geopolitical Instability

Gordana Apic et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article


Indicators that rank countries according socioeconomic measurements are important tools for regional development and political reform. Those currently in widespread use are sometimes criticized for a lack of reproducibility or the inability to compare values over time, necessitating simple, fast and systematic measures. Here, we applied the 'guilt by association' principle often used in biological networks to the information network within the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to create an indicator quantifying the degree to which pages linked to a country are disputed by contributors. The indicator correlates with metrics of governance, political or economic stability about as well as they correlate with each other, and though faster and simpler, it is remarkably stable over time despite constant changes in the underlying disputes. For some countries, changes over a four year period appear to correlate with world events related to conflicts or economic problems.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: One author is affiliated to the biotechnology company Cambridge Cell Networks Ltd. The company works in a very different area (predictive toxicology) from that presented in this paper, therefore there are no competing interests in regards to this company. The affiliation does not alter the authors' adherence to all the PLoS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Mercator projection of the world colored according the Wikipedia dispute index.
Colors traverse the spectrum from red (many more disputes than average) to blue (many fewer than average). Countries having too few disputes to be considered are colored grey. Note that French Territories (e.g. French Guyana, Mayotte, etc.) are colored according to France.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Plots comparing the Wikipedia Dispute Index (X axis) to a) the World Bank Policy Research Aggregate Governance Indicator (WGI) for political stability (R = −0.781), and b) the Economist Intelligence Unit 2009 political instability index (R = 0.641).
The third plot c) shows the two other indicators plotted against each other (R = −0.732). Only countries with more than 100 disputes are shown for clarity.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Values of the dispute index over a 3 year period for a) the G8 countries, b) countries in the Caucasus, c) the Balkans and d) Nordic countries.
Only those countries and points are shown where the number of disputes is above our background threshold of 20 (see Methods). Note that the scale on the y-axis is different in d) compared to the rest.

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