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Trolls, bans and reverts: simulating Wikipedia

  • Valentin Lageard
  • Cédric PaternotteEmail author


The surprisingly high reliability of Wikipedia has often been seen as a beneficial effect of the aggregation of diverse contributors, or as an instance of the wisdom of crowds phenomenon; additional factors such as elite contributors, Wikipedia’s policy or its administration have also been mentioned. We adjudicate between such explanations by modelling and simulating the evolution of a Wikipedia entry. The main threat to Wikipedia’s reliability, namely the presence of epistemically disruptive agents such as disinformers and trolls, turns out to be offset only by a combination of factors: Wikipedia’s administration and the possibility to instantly revert entries, both of which are insufficient when considered in isolation. Our results suggest that the reliability of Wikipedia should receive a pluralist explanation, involving factors of different kinds.


Wikipedia Social epistemology Computer simulation Collective knowledge Wisdom of crowds 



We thank Anouk Barberousse for her comments on an early version of this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UFR de PhilosophieSorbonne UniversitéParisFrance
  2. 2.SND Research Team, UFR de PhilosophieSorbonne UniversitéParisFrance

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