Wikipedia Editing Bots Have “Fought” Over the Past Years


Researchers discovered that the Wikipedia editing bots have been “fighting” and undoing each other’s edits

Researchers revealed that not only humans fight over Wikipedia revisions, but also robots. The study discovered that the robots that were designed to improve the Wikipedia articles had been actually fighting over content and trying to replace each other’s edits for ten years.

Also, the results revealed that even simple algorithms can generate such interactions that might lead to such consequences.

The team of researchers looked at these interactions on 13 editions in different languages for a period of 10 years, from 2001 to 2010. The smallest conflict was found in the German edition, where the bots undid each other’s edits only 24 times in 10 years.

The English version of Wikipedia featured bots that edited at three times the rate of humans on average. This means 105 edits over the period of 10 years.

The edition with the most edits is the Portuguese ones. The researchers discovered 185 changes, on average. This occurred since the content of the Portuguese edition is mostly produced by bots.

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Dr. Milena Tsvetkova, the lead author of the study and a professor at the Oxford Internet Institute, said that they noticed how bots behaved differently from one cultural environment to another. Also, they saw that the edits performed by the bots were much different from those of the humans.

This is interesting, since it has applications both in the way in which we design them and also in the way in which we study them. The researchers want to develop a more profound study regarding the sociology of these bots.

To better understand this statement, we have to make clear what editing bots on Wikipedia usually do. They are programmed to edit vandalism and send bans, they check spelling and links, and bring new content. Thus, it is interesting that these bots have started “fighting”. They are “benevolent bots” and were not programmed to interact in such a way.

This peculiar behavior of the editing bots has been discovered by the researchers at the University of Oxford, who later on developed the research in collaboration with the Alan Turing Institute in United Kingdom.

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They discovered that, despite the fact that these bots constitute only a small percentage of all Wikipedia editors, they were responsible for many edits. However, these conflicts represent quite a small part of the entire editorial activity of the bots. The researchers will keep studying this peculiar pattern to create a bigger picture of their complexity.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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