Non-English Editions of Wikipedia Have a Misinformation Problem

Yumiko Sato
05 Oct 2021
10:00 am - 10:50 am CDT

Non-English Editions of Wikipedia Have a Misinformation Problem

The Japanese Wikipedia is the most visited language in Wikipedia after the English Wikipedia. Increasingly, it’s contributing to the rise of historical revisionism in the country. On the pages of particularly sensitive historical topics, Japanese Wikipedia tends to exclude important information inconvenient to the Japanese public and/or include inaccurate and biased information. In other words, many of the articles whitewash war crimes by spreading disinformation.

A similar trend exists in other languages, such as Croatian Wikipedia. It has received attention from international media for promoting a fascist worldview and historical revisionism. Non-English Wikipedia communities such as a Japanese and Croatian tend to be much more isolated and likely have inherent bias on certain topics.

Cultural differences also play a major part in the way technology platforms are used. Wikipedia was made with Western values, more specifically on Enlightenment values. Some of the important values of the Enlightenment are freedom of speech, using reason to arrive at truth, and freely discussing societal problems in the “public sphere.” These are good values that most of us appreciate. But they are not necessarily practiced in the rest of the world. For instance, there is no tradition of “public sphere” in Japan. These cultural differences are reflected in the way people are using Wikipedia.

Digital solutions created by people of a similar background and language may miss important implications of how the product gets used by other people.

Learning Objectives:

  • Non-English Wikipedia has a misinformation problem.
  • Language and cultures influence the way people use technology.
  • Products created by people of a similar background miss important implications.
  • You must design with diversity and dignity.