Wikipedia:Counter-Vandalism Unit/Subtle Vandalism Taskforce

The Subtle Vandalism Taskforce (SVT) is a collaboration of editors attempting to combat the problem of subtle vandalism to the encyclopedia. The task force is focused on identifying the issues and possible solutions.

The problemEdit

Vandalism on Wikipedia is a widespread problem. A number of tools have been created to confront these problems, including editors that review recent changes to Wikipedia, automated programs (bots) that undo very obvious vandalism, an edit filter that flags and sometimes prohibits problem edits, a notice board to block vandalizing editors, and a multitude of software programs and scripts that assist editors in these tasks. These responses have been very effective in reducing the amount of blatant vandalism. These methods are so good that most readers do not see obvious examples of vandalism when reading the encyclopedia.

What lingers are instances of subtle vandalism. In particular, subtle factual errors represent a pernicious threat to the integrity and credibility of Wikipedia. Errors introduced deliberately contribute to criticism of Wikipedia and undermine the hard work of thousands by undermining its veracity. For more extensive, but potent examples of this, see Wikipedia biography controversy and Henryk Batuta hoax.

This task force is an attempt to understand those threats, and develop new tools, methods, and norms to combat them.


The SVT is focused purely on deliberate factual errors. It is not interested in content disputes, nor is it interested in honest mistakes, common errors, or more general "blatant" vandalism.

Common types of subtle vandalism include:

  • Birth/death date change vandalism – Changing birth/death dates, often by small amounts
  • Athlete vital statistics – Changing athlete vital statistics (height, handedness, other physical attributes)
  • Other date change vandalism, including changing dates of events, TV programs
  • Math and science change vandalism – Relatively rare, but especially damaging to the encyclopedia's credibility, and especially hard to recognize
  • Geographical coordinate vandalism – Relatively rare, easily identified, but rarely followed up on


The long term goal of the task force is to create tools to deal with subtle factual error vandalism that are as effective as those created to deal with the more obvious forms of vandalism.


There are no criteria for inclusion other than that an editor must be in good standing (no recent blocks for vandalism) and must be generally familiar with Wikipedia policies. Joining is not required to discuss, nor does it give any special privileges. It is merely a show of support for the purposes of the task force.

Add your name to the list if you would like to participate.

First stepEdit

The first step is to gather as much feedback as practical and identify specific classes of problems (the "Scope" above should roughly represent these classes), identify patterns that emerge in each class or as a whole, and to brainstorm possible solutions.

Preliminary ideasEdit

  • Subtle vandalism noticeboard - A way to keep track of these edits, and report them. Sometimes these are too long-term or spread out for AIV, but not severe enough for WP:Long term abuse. This could fill the middle ground. It could also filter out the edits that are not vandalism, with an expertise and care that's simply not practical at AIV.
  • Edit filter - Suggestions about additions to edit filter. There are some technical limitations to edit filter that make wide-spread rules difficult to implement, but some smaller subsets may be practical. Especially if you are familiar with WP:Edit filter or Regular expressions, your input would be extremely valuable here.
  • Project awareness - Help inform projects that are susceptible to this sort of vandalism, or the victim of it, that it is occurring so that members can be aware and report / warn the editors doing it. I've witnessed project specific vandalism where it is undone on a single article, but each person undoing it is unaware that the editor has also done 10 other examples of the same edit.
  • New programs - Develop tools to analyze either wikimedia dumps of article changes, or a bot to analyze changes in real time and flag suspect changes for followup by a human editor. This would require programing experience, and probably would require discussion with developers given the API load of such a program. However this approach could be finely tuned, look for patterns, and could have a high degree of accuracy.
  • Deltaquad has adopted Botlaf's code and restarted pooppatrol. Results already available at User:DeltaQuadBot/Job requests, and some vandalism picked up that has evaded both the hugglers and the watchlisters. If anyone wants to get involved or add queries then please get in touch. ϢereSpielChequers 18:35, 20 March 2011 (UTC)


Code Result
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