The imaginary war
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A fake history article fooled Wikipedia for years. It wasn't the first time
Alternate histories and counterfactuals can often be useful storytelling devices, but they are usually marked out as such up front. No disclaimers seem to be necessary on Wikipedia, though. What's more, it now turns out an article on an entirely fictional war can masquerade as the real thing for five long years on Wikipedia. The enterprising contributor responsible for the hoax put in a lot of effort to pull one over on Wikipedia editors. The article on the "Bicholim Conflict", ostensibly between the Portuguese in Goa and the Marathas, was 4,500 words long and didn't skimp on citing sources — most of those turned out to be fake, too. Indeed, the article didn't just fly under the radar, it was designated a "Good Article" by the editors a mere two months after it was created, a status given to less than 1 per cent of articles in English.
It is hardly the first time that Wikipedia's fact-checking army of volunteers let pass something that turned out to be, at best, incorrect. This article wasn't even the longest-lasting hoax entry to evade detection. That dubious honour belongs to an article about an individual named Gaius Flavius Antoninus, who, according to Wikipedia, was a conspirator in one of the most famous assassinations in history, of Julius Caesar. Antoninus was later killed by a "male prostitute hired by Mark Antony", according to the entry, which escaped detection for eight years.
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