Wikipedia Vandalism


Wikipedia vandalism is an example of social software misuse, i.e., a kind of anti-social behavior in online communities. Another example is the distribution of spam via the e-mail infrastructure which is done by a small percentage of all mail users. According to a study of 2007 the amount of spam mails sent per day reaches 95% of all mails sent per day, a fact which renders countermeasures such as spam filtering technologies a necessity. There exist many other unaccounted social software misuses which threaten online communities, such as vandalism and edit wars in Wikipedia. A surprising fact, however, is that spam is one of the few misuses for which detection technologies are being developed. Goal of this project is research and development of new technologies for the automatic detection of social software misuse. [service]


A service on the Internet (esp. on the World Wide Web) is called a social software if its purpose is online communication between two or more users. A social software therefore gathers a community of users who meet frequently on the infrastructure of the service. We distinguish eleven types of social software which are depicted in the following table.

Type of social software Popular representatives
search community, Digg, Yahoo! Answers
e-mail Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Hotmail
instant messaging IRC, ICQ, Skype, Web-chat
discussion board news group, mailing list, bulletin board
comment board guestbook, reviews at Amazon
blog Blogger,,
wiki Wikipedia, Citizendium, Wikia
social network Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace
media file sharing YouTube, Flickr, sevenload
virtual world Second Life, World of Warcraft, Eve


In all online communities there are some participants who show an anti-social behavior. They misuse the social software in diverse ways and with diverse intentions, however, their actions always harm the welfare of the community. We distinguish three categories of misuses: destructive misuses, profit seeking misuses, and counterproductive misuses. Destructive misuses are meant to harm, impede, or destroy someone or something and profit seeking misuse are meant to raise one's personal profit by illegal or unethical actions. Both of the former are conducted deliberately whereas this is not the case with counterproductive misuses: here, the sum of one's otherwise well-intentioned actions forms the misuse. The following table gives an overview of misuses we have documented so far.

Social software misuse
  destructive        profit seeking        counterproductive

Our current efforts are directed at developing new automatic detection approaches for vandalism and edit wars in Wikis. Especially the Wikipedia community will benefit from such solutions.


Students: Robert Gerling, Dennis Hoppe