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Wikipedia:Do not create hoaxes

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A hoax is an attempt to trick an audience into believing that something false is real. Since Wikipedia is an "encyclopedia anyone can edit", it can be abused to create hoaxes.

Do not create hoaxes

Please do not attempt to put misinformation into Wikipedia to test our ability to detect and remove it. This has been done before, with varying results. Most hoaxes are marked for deletion within a few hours of being created. The most sophisticated hoaxes, such as articles about made-up historical individuals with detailed biographical information and fake references, have lasted for almost a decade before being detected. These hoax articles hurt the reputation of Wikipedia as an encyclopedia.

It has been tried, tested, and confirmed: it is indeed possible to insert hoaxes into Wikipedia, just as it is possible to insert profanity. This is an inevitable consequence of being a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. A hoax is simply a more obscure, less obvious form of vandalism. Hoaxes in Wikipedia are considered vandalism, and persistent perpetrators of hoaxes are subject to blocking and banning.

Misinformation on Wikipedia misleads readers, causing them to make errors with real consequences, including hurt feelings, public embarrassment,[1] reprints of books,[2] lost points on school assignments, and other costs. Some hoaxes about living people may be defamatory, which could expose Wikipedia to legal consequences (see Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons). With some articles, like medical topics, they could lead to injury or death. Additionally, maintaining and improving hoax articles requires resources that volunteers could be dedicating to useful topics. Although it is important to read Wikipedia critically and to try to improve the reliability of its content, it is best to do this directly, by correcting false information, rather than by "testing" the system by creating a hoax article or content to see if Wikipedia will detect the hoax.

If you are interested in how accurate Wikipedia is, a more constructive test method is to try to find inaccurate statements that are already in Wikipedia, and then to check to see how long they have been in place and, if possible, correct them.


Wikipedia requires material to be verifiable to a reliable published source. If challenged, the burden is on the original author to prove the claims in the article. Thus, it is futile to try to continue a hoax once it is under scrutiny of Wikipedia editors if the general population does not already believe it external to Wikipedia. Moreover, if a hoaxer has already successfully tricked the public, then they need not create an article themselves; someone else will do it.

Hoaxes, versus articles about hoaxes

Wikipedia does have articles about notable hoaxes describing them as hoaxes, such as Piltdown Man or the War of the Worlds broadcast. Wikipedia also has encyclopedia articles about notable hoaxes that have formerly existed on Wikipedia (such as Jar'Edo Wens hoax or Henryk Batuta hoax) This is completely different from an article presenting a hoax as factual.

For example, this is a hoax:

A memorable and crowded meeting of the Geological Society was held in Burlington House, London, on December 18, to hear a paper read "On the Discovery of a Paleolithic Human Skull and Mandible in a Flint-bearing Gravel overlying the Wealden (Hastings Beds) at Piltdown, Fletching (Sussex),)" by Charles Dawson, F.S.A., F.G.S., and Arthur Smith Woodward, LL.D... Professor G. Elliot Smith was called on to give an account of his investigation on the cast of the cranial cavity, and he pointed out that, while the general shape and size of the brain was human, the arrangement of the meningeal arteries was typically simian, as was a deep notch in the occipital region; he regarded it as the most ape-like human brain of which we have any knowledge... There can be no doubt that this is a discovery of the greatest importance and will give rise to much discussion. It is the nearest approach we have yet reached to a "missing link," for whatever may be the final verdict as to the systemic position of Pithecanthropus erectus, probably few will deny that Eoanthropus Dawsoni is almost if not quite as much human as simian. The recent discoveries of human remains... are demonstrating that several races of man lived in paleolithic times, and we may confidently look forward to new finds which will throw fresh light upon the evolution of man. [3]

While this is the start of an article about a hoax:

The Piltdown Man was a paleoanthropological hoax in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilised remains of a previously unknown early human. These fragments consisted of parts of a skull and jawbone, said to have been collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, East Sussex, England. The Latin name Eoanthropus dawsoni ("Dawson's dawn-man", after the collector Charles Dawson) was given to the specimen. The significance of the specimen remained the subject of controversy until it was exposed in 1953 as a forgery, consisting of the lower jawbone of an orangutan deliberately combined with the cranium of a fully developed modern human. The Piltdown hoax is perhaps the most famous paleoanthropological hoax ever to have been perpetrated. It is prominent for two reasons: the attention paid to the issue of human evolution, and the length of time (more than 40 years) that elapsed from its discovery to its full exposure as a forgery.[4]

Like everything else, hoaxes must be notable to be covered in Wikipedia—for example, a hoax may have received sustained media attention, been believed by thousands of people including academics, or been believed for many years. Wikipedia is not for things made up one day.

Dealing with hoaxes

If you see an article or image that may be a hoax, mark it with {{hoax}} or {{image hoax}} and propose it for deletion. If it is indeed found to be a hoax, it is appropriate to warn the user with {{uw-hoax}}.

Hoaxes are generally not speedy deletion candidates. It is usually not enough for just one or two editors to investigate a hoax, as there have been cases in the past where something has been thought to have been a hoax by several editors, but has turned out to be true, and merely obscure. Suspected hoaxes should be investigated thoroughly, and only in extreme cases of blatant and obvious hoaxes should articles be tagged for speedy deletion as {{db-hoax}}.

Also, completely implausible text may be legitimate descriptions of fictional works that use an inappropriate in-universe style. Use "What links here" to check if this is the case, and if so rewrite the article in the out-of-universe perspective, or tag the article with {{in-universe}} or {{fiction}}.

List of hoaxes

This is a list of known historical hoaxes that have been created on Wikipedia. Its purpose is to document hoaxes on Wikipedia, in order to improve our detection and understanding of them. It is considered a hoax if it was a clear or blatant attempt to make up something, as opposed to libel, vandalism or a factual error. A hoax is considered notable if it evaded detection for more than one month or was discussed by reliable sources in the media. This list is incomplete, as many hoaxes on Wikipedia remain undiscovered.

See also


  1. ^ See e.g. the Asian Football Confederation controversy and the Roger Vinson hoax at Wikipedia:List of hoaxes on Wikipedia
  2. ^ See for example the Rosie the Riveter hoax at Wikipedia:List of hoaxes on Wikipedia
  3. ^ Excerpted from "Eoanthropus dawsoni", A. G. Haddon, Science, 1913, a then-contemporary report of Dawson and Woodward's 1912 On the Discovery of a Paleolithic Human Skull and Mandible... paper which presented the Piltdown claims as a major scientific advance.
  4. ^ Excerpted from Wikipedia's article about the Piltdown Man as hoax, see article/history (CC BY-SA) for contributor list and sources.

Further reading

External links