Hoax article on Wikipedia for 5 years

Jan. 4, 2013 at 11:07 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- An online sleuth discovered the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia's lengthy tome about a 17th-century clash called the Bicholim Conflict was a five-year hoax.

The 4,500-word article told of the fighting that supposedly took place between Portugal and India's Maratha Empire in 1640-41 that led to Goa becoming an independent Indian state. None of it, a Wikipedia detective who goes by the handle ShelfSkewed determined, was true, the online newspaper The Daily Dot reports.

ShelfSkewed had arbitrarily decided last month to check out the article's sources and found out none of the books cited appeared to exist. On Dec. 29, ShelfSkewed recommended the article be deleted.

"After careful consideration and some research, I have come to the conclusion that this article is a hoax -- a clever and elaborate hoax, but a hoax nonetheless," ShelfSkewed wrote. "An online search for 'Bicholim conflict' or for many of the article's purported sources produces only results that can be traced back to the article itself."

Several other editors agreed and Wikipedia administrators promptly excised it.

The hoax's perpetrator remains unknown, though cyberfingers point toward someone using the handle "A-b-a-a-a-a-a-a-b-a," who authored much of the article's text.

The "Bicholim Conflict" hoax ranks eighth on the list of the longest-running known hoaxes pulled off on Wikipedia, The Daily Dot said. The fictitious "Gaius Flavius Antoninus" page that proclaimed him the assassin of Julius Caesar was posted for more than eight years before being removed last July.

"Unfortunately, hoaxes on Wikipedia are nothing new, and the craftier they are, the more difficult it is to catch them," William Beutler, president of Beutler Wiki Relations, a Wikipedia consulting firm, told Yahoo News. "Anyone who's clever enough to make up convincing sources and motivated enough to spend the time and skilled enough to write a plausible article can deceive whole Internet -- at least for awhile."

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