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Wikipedia's response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Effect of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic on Wikipedia
Page view statistics for the COVID-19 pandemic (formerly titled "2019–20 coronavirus pandemic") article on English Wikipedia from 1 January to 24 March 2020

Wikipedia experienced an increase in readership during the COVID-19 pandemic. Editors have worked to remove misinformation. As of April 2020, according to the newspaper Dawn, since reports of cases in Wuhan emerged in December 2019, Wikipedia editors have averaged 163 edits per hour. Across all Wikipedia languages, there are approximately 4,500 Wikipedia pages related to the pandemic, as of 23 April 2020. In November 2020 Wikipedia and the World Health Organization started a joint venture in an effort to combat false information, with the WHO allowing free use of its published information, graphics and videos.


One of several infographics provided by the World Health Organization for Wikipedia to use to fight off misinformation related to COVID-19, this related to the conspiracy theories around the spread of COVID by 5G wireless towers

In mid-March, Noam Cohen of Wired said editors' work on articles related to the pandemic demonstrated "that Wikipedia has also developed a conscience". Cohen described how Wikipedia's efforts to combat misinformation related to the pandemic differed from some other major websites and opined, "Unless Twitter, Facebook and the others can learn to address misinformation more effectively, Wikipedia will remain the last best place on the Internet."

The numbers of Wikipedia viewers globally rose to record levels because of the pandemic. In his article "Why Wikipedia Is Immune to Coronavirus", Omer Benjakob of Haaretz wrote, "Wikipedia has stepped in to provide relief. So much so that it has become the go-to source for COVID-19 information." The World Health Organization announced it was working with the Wikimedia Foundation to help freely licensing its infographics and other material on COVID-19 to help in the work's effort to fight misinformation related to COVID-19, with plans to do similar in the future for other infectious diseases.

In early 2021 the BBC remarked that in 2020 hundreds of Wikipedia editors wrote about every aspect of the pandemic.

English Wikipedia

Screenshot of a template on English Wikipedia displaying a collection of articles related to the coronavirus pandemic, as of 22 April 2020

The "Coronavirus" page was created in 2003. The "2019–2020 China pneumonia outbreak" Wikipedia article, which evolved into the English Wikipedia's main article about the pandemic, was created on 5 January 2020. Wikipedia entries were subsequently created for "Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2" and "Coronavirus disease 2019". By 9 February, the main article had been edited more than 6,500 times by approximately 1,200 editors, and six of the primary Wikipedia articles about the pandemic were viewed more than 18 million times. Other early entries included an overview of the pandemic by country and territory, a timeline, and another focused on xenophobia and racism. The Wikipedia pages about bats as food, the Corona beer brand, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Wuhan also saw increased editing. The "In the News" section of the English Wikipedia's main page got a special section with links to essential information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the pandemic spread, editors worked to keep up with the barrage of new information and misinformation being added to the site. Information on Wikipedia was used to create data visualisations and shared on Reddit, Twitter, and other social media platforms. More than 2,100 editors had contributed to the main article about the pandemic by 19 March.

Viewership of WikiProject COVID-19, WikiProject Medicine, and WikiProject Viruses during March 2020

Editors formed WikiProject COVID-19, a WikiProject dedicated to the disease and pandemic. Volunteers have worked to translate short entries into Wikipedias of other languages. The WikiProject had 90 members by 24 March. Members of WikiProject Medicine, including James Heilman, have also worked to improve coverage of COVID-19. Heilman was featured on CBS Morning News in May.

Wikipedia editors deleted and later restored an entry called "2020 Tablighi Jamaat coronavirus hotspot in Delhi", which project founder Jimmy Wales said "was incredibly poorly written and had zero sources". Wales responded to accusations on Twitter stating that Wikipedia did not accept payment for the article's deletion.

Readership spikes have reflected significant developments in the disease's spread. "COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan" saw a traffic spike in late March, with daily page views ranging from 80,000 to 100,000; the article ranked number 72 for the month's most read pages. In early April, Wikimedia projects received 673 million page views in a 24-hour period, the highest in five years. English Wikipedia had 283 coronavirus articles by then, with the main entry receiving more than 17,000 edits and 20 million views. Entries about the pandemic received 240 million views by 23 April 2020, with the page about misinformation related to the pandemic receiving an average of 14,000 views per day.

In May 2020, Google search displayed incorrect data about death tolls from COVID-19, which came from English Wikipedia.

German Wikipedia

There are hundreds of Wikipedia articles about the coronavirus pandemic at German Wikipedia. Editors began writing about the pandemic in January 2020, when the outbreak was advancing in China. The main article about the pandemic and the entry for the disease's spread in Germany were being accessed approximately 150,000 and 100,000 times per day, respectively, as of March 2020.

Indian languages

Logo for WikiProject COVID-19 at Urdu Wikipedia

Wikipedia had COVID-19 information in nine Indian languages by 27 March 2020: Arabic, Bangla, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. SWASTHA (acronym for Special Wikipedia Awareness Scheme for the Healthcare Affiliates), a division of WikiProject Medicine, is working with Johns Hopkins University, India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and National Health Authority, and the World Health Organization to improve coverage.

Urdu Wikipedia's entry for coronavirus was viewed more than 12,000 times by 23 April 2020.

Japanese Wikipedia

There are over one hundred Wikipedia articles about the coronavirus pandemic at the Japanese Wikipedia. The Wikipedia article "Abenomask" (アベノマスク) drew attention due to its deletion request. The word refers to a government plan involving reusable clothmasks. Some said that the name was an insult against Shinzo Abe, others that it was not an insult and showed usage in Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese conservative and right-wing newspaper. The community decided that it should not be deleted.

Spanish Wikipedia

The main article about the pandemic at Spanish Wikipedia was created by an editor from Costa Rica on 19 January 2020. By mid April, the article had been edited more than 5,000 times, included 350 references, and received more than 5 million views. The entry was being monitored by approximately 175 editors at the time, receiving an average of 80,000 views per day.


According to Wired, BridgeDb, a project that connects bioinformatic identifiers, is creating coronavirus gene and protein mapping databases from information supplied by Wikidata, a sibling project of Wikipedia, as part of a collaboration with Wikidata's WikiProject COVID-19. WikiProject India, on Wikidata, set up a task force and created a central database depicting the national and state-level trajectories of the spread.

Wikimedia Foundation

March 2020 message to English Wikipedia's readers about COVID-19, written by Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that supports Wikimedia movement projects, including Wikipedia, had employees work remotely. The foundation's executive director, Katherine Maher, has encouraged editors and readers to work together to improve Wikipedia's coverage of COVID-19.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Wikipedia's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (view authors).

Date of last edit: 2021-01-28T19:48:12.000Z