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  • Writer's pictureOmer Benjakob

Wikipedia enters India's culture wars

While the entire world was praising Wikipedia for managing to fight disinformation on both the U.S. election and the coronavirus pandemic, a war was brewing in India.

Wikipedia's pages had became a perfect storm of religious acrimony, political hate-mongering and Covid-19 misinformation. Claims by Hindu politicians that the local Muslim community was to blame for the virus’s spread in India, or that Islamic leadership was not doing enough to stop it, grew rampant – both on the Wikipedia article and offline. Much like was the case in the U.S. with Trump, in Modi's India, facts are increasingly becoming political fodder.

In my latest for WIRED UK, I show how India is having its Wikipedia moment: More and more new editors and reading are using the site, but by the same token it is facing many of the same issues it faced as it was gaining prominence in the U.S. Claims that Wikipedia has a liberal bias have long gone hand-in-hand with campaigns by media outlets displeased with the encyclopaedia. Conservapedia was set up in 2009 to provide a more evangelical-friendly version of the encyclopaedia for Americans reluctant to accept what mainstream sources say about climate change and evolution. After The Daily Mail was deprecated as a source on Wikipedia, it too joined a growing chorus of right-wing criticism of Wikipedia. In recent years, Breitbart has also focused on the issue. Now, a similar process is going on in India - and everything from Gandhi to the coronavirus and even Hindu deities are being pulled into the fray.

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