Wikipedia coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic is covered in Wikipedia extensively, in real-time, and across many languages. This coverage extends to many detailed articles about various aspects of the topic itself, as well as many existing articles being amended to take account of the pandemic's effect on them. Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects' coverage of the pandemic – and how the volunteer editing community achieved that coverage – received widespread media attention for its comprehensiveness, reliability, and speed.
In mid-March 2020, Noam Cohen of Wired said editors' work on articles related to the pandemic demonstrated "that Wikipedia has also developed a conscience." Cohen described how Wikipedia's efforts to combat misinformation related to the pandemic differed from some other major websites and opined, "Unless Twitter, Facebook and the others can learn to address misinformation more effectively, Wikipedia will remain the last best place on the Internet."
Wikipedia experienced an increase in readership during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 2020, according to the newspaper Dawn, since reports of cases in Wuhan emerged in December 2019, Wikipedia editors have averaged 163 edits per hour (to pandemic-related pages). Across 188 Wikipedia languages, there were nearly 7,000 Wikipedia articles related to the pandemic as of November 2021.
In his article "Why Wikipedia Is Immune to Coronavirus", Omer Benjakob of Haaretz wrote, "Wikipedia has stepped in to provide relief. So much so that it has become the go-to source for COVID-19 information." Editors have worked diligently to remove misinformation. The World Health Organization announced it was working with the Wikimedia Foundation to help freely license its infographics and other material on COVID-19 to help in the work's effort to fight misinformation related to COVID-19, with plans to do similar in the future for other infectious diseases.
According to Wikimedia Foundation spokeswoman Chantal De Soto, as of the end of July 2020, more than 67,000 editors had collaborated to create more than 5,000 Wikipedia articles in 175 different languages about COVID-19 and its many impacts. Jevin West, a professor at the University of Washington Information School, said in August 2020 that Wikipedia has handled COVID-19 "overall, exceptionally well." In January 2021, the BBC remarked that in 2020 hundreds of Wikipedia editors had covered just about every aspect of the pandemic.
In June 2021, Jackson Ryan of CNET reported on Wikipedia's "endless war" over the COVID-19 lab leak hypothesis. Some editors were reported to have been caught setting up "sock puppets" accounts to reinforce their own point of view and push dubious sources. Other editors were reported to have expressed concerns about possible Chinese state actors suppressing discussion of the hypothesis, without providing definitive evidence.
In August 2021, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales wrote in Al Jazeera that "When the COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we know it, volunteer editors on Wikipedia acted in real-time to combat disinformation and ensure the world had access to science-based health resources, across 188 languages and every continent. Through an open, decentralised model, Wikipedians created unparalleled amounts of accurate, life-saving content."
One study found that Wikipedia's coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic during the first wave from January to May 2020 referenced trusted media sources and high-quality academic research. Another study observed that Wikipedia's traffic tended to match the intensity of other COVID-19 discussion in the media ecosystem, rather than the ongoing and steady severity of the pandemic.
A year after its first creation, the main COVID-19 pandemic Wikipedia article in English had become the 4th most viewed article on the website of all time, with almost 32,000 inbound links from other articles.
The "2019–2020 China pneumonia outbreak" Wikipedia article, which evolved into the English Wikipedia's main article about the pandemic, was created on 5 January 2020 by a user from China. Wikipedia entries were subsequently created for "Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2" and "Coronavirus disease 2019". By 9 February, the main article had been edited more than 6,500 times by approximately 1,200 editors, and six of the primary Wikipedia articles about the pandemic were viewed more than 18 million times. Other early entries included an overview of the pandemic by country and territory, a timeline, and another focused on xenophobia and racism. The Wikipedia pages about bats as food, the Corona beer brand, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Wuhan also saw increased editing. The "In the News" section of the English Wikipedia's main page got a special section with links to essential information about the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the pandemic spread, editors worked to keep up with the barrage of new information and misinformation being added to the site. Information on Wikipedia was used to create data visualisations and shared on Reddit, Twitter, and other social media platforms. More than 2,100 editors had contributed to the main article about the pandemic by 19 March.
In mid-March, an editor created WikiProject COVID-19, a WikiProject dedicated to the disease and pandemic. Volunteers have worked to translate short entries into Wikipedias of other languages. The WikiProject had 90 members by 24 March. Members of WikiProject Medicine, including James Heilman, have also worked to improve coverage of COVID-19. Heilman was featured on CBS Morning News in May.
Wikipedia editors deleted and later restored an entry called "2020 Tablighi Jamaat COVID-19 hotspot in Delhi", which project co-founder Jimmy Wales said "was incredibly poorly written and had zero sources." Wales responded to accusations on Twitter stating that Wikipedia did not accept payment for the article's deletion.
Readership spikes have reflected significant developments in the disease's spread. "COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan" saw a traffic spike in late March, with daily page views ranging from 80,000 to 100,000; the article ranked number 72 for the month's most read pages. In early April, Wikimedia projects received 673 million page views in a 24-hour period, the highest in five years. English Wikipedia had 283 COVID-19 articles by then, with the main entry receiving more than 17,000 edits and 20 million views. Entries about the pandemic received 240 million views by 23 April 2020, with the page about misinformation related to the pandemic receiving an average of 14,000 views per day.
A November 2021 study found that contributions to the English Wikipedia had increased by 20% due to COVID-19 restrictions.
There are hundreds of Wikipedia articles about the COVID-19 pandemic at German Wikipedia. Editors began writing about the pandemic in January 2020, when the outbreak was advancing in China. The main article about the pandemic and the entry for the disease's spread in Germany were being accessed approximately 150,000 and 100,000 times per day, respectively, as of March 2020.
Wikipedia had COVID-19 information in nine Indian languages by 27 March 2020: Arabic, Bangla, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. SWASTHA (acronym for Special Wikipedia Awareness Scheme for the Healthcare Affiliates), a division of WikiProject Medicine, is working with Johns Hopkins University, India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and National Health Authority, and the World Health Organization to improve coverage.
Urdu Wikipedia's entry for COVID-19 was viewed more than 12,000 times by 23 April 2020. Development of Wikipedia's coverage on COVID-19 led to public consideration among Indian people of Wikipedia's coverage of other topics.
There are over one hundred Wikipedia articles about the pandemic at the Japanese Wikipedia. The Wikipedia article "Abenomask" (アベノマスク) drew attention due to its deletion request. The word refers to a government plan involving reusable clothmasks. Some said that the name was an insult against Shinzo Abe, others that it was not an insult and showed usage in Sankei Shimbun, a conservative and right-wing newspaper. The community decided that it should not be deleted.
The main article about the pandemic at Spanish Wikipedia was created by an editor from Costa Rica on 19 January 2020. By mid April, the article had been edited more than 5,000 times, included 350 references, and received more than 5 million views. The entry was being monitored by approximately 175 editors at the time, receiving an average of 80,000 views per day.
According to Wired, BridgeDb, a project that connects bioinformatic identifiers, is creating COVID-19 gene and protein mapping databases from information supplied by Wikidata, a sibling project of Wikipedia, as part of a collaboration with Wikidata's WikiProject COVID-19. WikiProject India, on Wikidata, set up a task force and created a central database depicting the national and state-level trajectories of the spread.
The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that supports Wikimedia movement projects, including Wikipedia, had employees work remotely. The foundation's then-executive director, Katherine Maher, has encouraged editors and readers to work together to improve Wikipedia's coverage of COVID-19.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to COVID-19 pandemic in Wikimedia projects.|
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