Is Wikipedia just a man’s world? Yes it is, according to new study

4 Feb 2015

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Wikipedia image via Kristina Alexanderson/Flickr

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A team of computer scientists have compiled analysis which, despite Wikipedia’s best efforts, has shown the online encyclopaedia to be ‘deeply biased’ against women.

Much talk has been made of Wikipedia’s vast number of volunteer editors from around the world today and their efforts to make sure the information within is as correct as possible, but now Claudia Wagner from the Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Cologne with the help of people from ETH Zurich, Switzerland and the University of Koblenz-Landau are saying it is inherently sexist.

According to MIT Technology Review, Wagner and the team analysed Wikipedia articles in six different languages across three different databases of articles that discussed famous men and women throughout history.

The ‘null gender’ hypothesis

Some of the site’s downfalls, according to their research, show that overall, the number of articles about famous women were much more likely to link to men rather than other women, with the opposite found for male-related articles.

Likewise, Wagner’s computational linguistic analysis showed that the language used in articles about famous women were more likely to contain keywords which put an emphasis on the person’s sex such as ‘lady’, ‘female’ or ‘woman’, compared with articles about men which don’t feature ‘gentleman’, ‘male’ or ‘man’ at all.

The researchers, who have published their findings online under the title It's a Man's Wikipedia? Assessing Gender Inequality in an Online Encyclopedia, say the reason for this gender inequality is a result of the ‘null gender’ hypothesis which follows the line of thought that if gender isn’t mentioned about a person, then they must be male.

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Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com