Wikipedia coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic

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

The COVID-19 pandemic is covered in Wikipedia extensively, in real-time, and across many languages. This coverage extends to many detailed articles about various aspects of the topic itself, as well as many existing articles being amended to take account of the pandemic's effect on them. Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects' coverage of the pandemic – and how the volunteer editing community achieved that coverage – received widespread media attention for its comprehensiveness, reliability, and speed.[1][2][3]


One of several infographics provided by the World Health Organization to Wikipedia; this one pertains to conspiracy theories about 5G

In mid-March 2020, Noam Cohen of Wired said editors' work on articles related to the pandemic demonstrated "that Wikipedia has also developed a conscience."[3] 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."[3]

Wikipedia experienced an increase in readership during the COVID-19 pandemic.[4] 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 (to pandemic-related pages).[5] Across 188 Wikipedia languages, there were nearly 7,000 Wikipedia articles related to the pandemic as of November 2021.[6]

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."[2] Editors have worked diligently to remove misinformation.[7][8] The World Health Organization announced it was working with the Wikimedia Foundation to help freely license 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.[9][10]

According to Wikimedia Foundation spokeswoman Chantal De Soto, as of the end of July 2020, more than 67,000 editors had collaborated to create more than 5,000 Wikipedia articles in 175 different languages about COVID-19 and its many impacts.[11] Jevin West, a professor at the University of Washington Information School, said in August 2020 that Wikipedia has handled COVID-19 "overall, exceptionally well."[11] In January 2021, the BBC remarked that in 2020 hundreds of Wikipedia editors had covered just about every aspect of the pandemic.[12]

In June 2021, Jackson Ryan of CNET reported on Wikipedia's "endless war" over the COVID-19 lab leak hypothesis. Some editors were reported to have been caught setting up "sock puppets" accounts to reinforce their own point of view and push dubious sources. Other editors were reported to have expressed concerns about possible Chinese state actors suppressing discussion of the hypothesis, without providing definitive evidence.[13]

In August 2021, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales wrote in Al Jazeera that "When the COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we know it, volunteer editors on Wikipedia acted in real-time to combat disinformation and ensure the world had access to science-based health resources, across 188 languages and every continent. Through an open, decentralised model, Wikipedians created unparalleled amounts of accurate, life-saving content."[14]

One study found that Wikipedia's coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic during the first wave from January to May 2020 referenced trusted media sources and high-quality academic research.[15] Another study observed that Wikipedia's traffic tended to match the intensity of other COVID-19 discussion in the media ecosystem, rather than the ongoing and steady severity of the pandemic.[16]

English Wikipedia

Screenshot of a template on English Wikipedia displaying a collection of articles related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as of 3 April 2021

A year after its first creation, the main COVID-19 pandemic Wikipedia article in English had become the 4th most viewed article on the website of all time, with almost 32,000 inbound links from other articles.[1]

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 by a user from China. Wikipedia entries were subsequently created for "Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2" and "Coronavirus disease 2019".[12][7] 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.[7] 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.[2]

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.[7] More than 2,100 editors had contributed to the main article about the pandemic by 19 March.[17]

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

In mid-March, an editor created 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.[11][18] Members of WikiProject Medicine, including James Heilman,[3] have also worked to improve coverage of COVID-19.[7] Heilman was featured on CBS Morning News in May.[19]

Wikipedia editors deleted and later restored an entry called "2020 Tablighi Jamaat COVID-19 hotspot in Delhi", which project co-founder Jimmy Wales said "was incredibly poorly written and had zero sources."[20][21] Wales responded to accusations on Twitter stating that Wikipedia did not accept payment for the article's deletion.[22][23]

English Wikipedia editors with >100 edits per month[24]

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.[5] English Wikipedia had 283 COVID-19 articles by then, with the main entry receiving more than 17,000 edits and 20 million views.[8] 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.[5]

A November 2021 study found that contributions to the English Wikipedia had increased by 20% due to COVID-19 restrictions.[25]

German Wikipedia

There are hundreds of Wikipedia articles about the COVID-19 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.[18]

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),[26] 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.[27][28]

Urdu Wikipedia's entry for COVID-19 was viewed more than 12,000 times by 23 April 2020.[5] Development of Wikipedia's coverage on COVID-19 led to public consideration among Indian people of Wikipedia's coverage of other topics.[29]

Japanese Wikipedia

There are over one hundred Wikipedia articles about the 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 conservative and right-wing newspaper.[30] The community decided that it should not be deleted.[31][32][33]

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.[34]


According to Wired, BridgeDb, a project that connects bioinformatic identifiers, is creating COVID-19 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.[35] WikiProject India, on Wikidata, set up a task force and created a central database depicting the national and state-level trajectories of the spread.[36]

Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that supports Wikimedia movement projects, including Wikipedia, had employees work remotely. The foundation's then-executive director, Katherine Maher, has encouraged editors and readers to work together to improve Wikipedia's coverage of COVID-19.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b Sachdev, Shaan (26 February 2021). "Wikipedia's Sprawling, Awe-Inspiring Coverage of the Pandemic". The New Republic. ISSN 0028-6583. Retrieved 27 February 2021.{{cite magazine}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ a b c Benjakob, Omer (8 April 2020). "Why Wikipedia Is Immune to Coronavirus". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Cohen, Noam (15 March 2020). "How Wikipedia Prevents the Spread of Coronavirus Misinformation". Wired. Archived from the original on 1 May 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  4. ^ Koeze, Ella; Popper, Nathaniel (7 April 2020). "The Virus Changed the Way We Internet". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 22 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d Jahangir, Ramsha (23 April 2020). "Wikipedia breaks five-year record with high traffic in pandemic". Dawn. Archived from the original on 23 April 2020. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  6. ^ Keton, Amanda; Humborg, Christian (29 November 2021). "Digital regulation must empower people to make the internet better". TechCrunch. Retrieved 19 December 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ a b c d e Benjakob, Omer (9 February 2020). "On Wikipedia, a fight is raging over coronavirus disinformation". Wired UK. ISSN 1357-0978. Archived from the original on 16 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  8. ^ a b Dodds, Laurence (3 April 2020). "Why Wikipedia is winning against the coronavirus 'infodemic'". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 11 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  9. ^ Jr, Donald G. McNeil (22 October 2020). "Wikipedia and W.H.O. Join to Combat Covid-19 Misinformation". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 December 2020. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  10. ^ McNeil, Donald G. (22 October 2020). "Wikipedia and W.H.O. Join to Combat Covid-19 Misinformation". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 December 2020. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  11. ^ a b c M. Andrews, Travis (7 August 2020). "Covid-19 is one of Wikipedia's biggest challenges ever. Here's how the site is handling it". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 9 October 2021.
  12. ^ a b Cellan-Jones, Rory (15 January 2021). "Wikipedia at 20: The encyclopedia in five articles". BBC News.
  13. ^ Ryan, Jackson (24 June 2021). "Inside Wikipedia's endless war over the coronavirus lab leak theory". CNET. Retrieved 27 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ Wales, Jimmy (26 August 2021). "Learning to trust the internet again". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 26 August 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ Robertson, Sally (3 March 2021). "Wikipedia maintained high-quality COVID-19 coverage during first pandemic wave". Retrieved 13 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ Gozzi, N; Tizzani, M; Starnini, M; Ciulla, F; Paolotti, D; Panisson, A; Perra, N (12 October 2020). "Collective Response to Media Coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Reddit and Wikipedia: Mixed-Methods Analysis". Journal of Medical Internet Research. 22 (10): e21597. doi:10.2196/21597. PMC 7553788. PMID 32960775.
  17. ^ Harrison, Stephen (19 March 2020). "The Coronavirus Is Stress-Testing Wikipedia's Systems – and Editors". Slate. Archived from the original on 18 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  18. ^ a b c "Hochzeiten für Wikipedia: Dauerhafte Coronavirus-Updates" [Golden era for Wikipedia: substantial coronavirus updates]. Heise Online (in German). Heinz Heise. 24 March 2020. Archived from the original on 30 March 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  19. ^ May 24, CBS News. "The rise of Wikipedia as a source of medical information". Archived from the original on 27 December 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  20. ^ Chitra, Rachel. "On Wikipedia, Quora & Twitter, battle rages against communalisation of Covid-19, Jamaat event". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 23 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  21. ^ Jena, Smrutisnat (19 April 2020). "Wikipedia Founder Responds To Angry Indians Who Ask Him If He Knows How Wikipedia Works". ScoopWhoop. Archived from the original on 23 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  22. ^ Gaur, Viraj (18 April 2020). "Twitter Users Accuse Wikipedia of Taking Bribes, Founder Responds". The Quint. Archived from the original on 22 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  23. ^ "Wikipedia's befitting reply to 'bribe to delete Tablighi' page". The Siasat Daily. 19 April 2020. Archived from the original on 19 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  24. ^ "Wikipedia Statistics (English)".
  25. ^ Ruprechter, Thorsten; Horta Ribeiro, Manoel; Santos, Tiago; Lemmerich, Florian; Strohmaier, Markus; West, Robert; Helic, Denis (2 November 2021). "Volunteer contributions to Wikipedia increased during COVID-19 mobility restrictions". Scientific Reports. 11 (1): 21505. arXiv:2102.10090. Bibcode:2021NatSR..1121505R. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-00789-3. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 8563865. PMID 34728670.
  26. ^ "Wikipedia Has a Special Project to Fight Coronavirus Fake News in India". NDTV. Archived from the original on 15 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  27. ^ "Wikipedia's SWASTHA project to help fight Covid-19 fake news in India: Report". Hindustan Times. 3 April 2020. Archived from the original on 11 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  28. ^ "Wikipedia has COVID-19 information in Bangla, Hindi, Tamil and 6 other Indian languages". Hindustan Times. 27 March 2020. Archived from the original on 12 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  29. ^ Benjakob, Omer (5 November 2020). "A vicious culture war is tearing through Wikipedia". Wired UK.
  30. ^ "【襲来!コロナウイルス】「アベノマスク」って差別語だったの? 「ウィキペディア」の項目の削除要求をめぐるトンデモ大論争". J-CAST 会社ウォッチ (in Japanese). 24 April 2020. Archived from the original on 27 December 2020. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  31. ^ "Wikipedia:削除依頼/アベノマスク", Wikipedia (in Japanese), 26 April 2020, archived from the original on 27 December 2020, retrieved 15 May 2020
  32. ^ "From Abenomics to Abenomask: Japan Mask Plan Meets With Derision". No. 2 April 2020. Archived from the original on 23 April 2020. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  33. ^ 柳井政和 (4 June 2020). "静かに繰り広げられる、「アベノマスク」 Wikipediaの攻防". ハーバー・ビジネス・オンライン (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 27 December 2020. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  34. ^ Veiga, Yolanda (15 April 2020). "El coronavirus pone a prueba Wikipedia". Hoy (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 27 December 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  35. ^ Sterling, Bruce (21 April 2020). "A Covid19 data portal". Wired. Archived from the original on 23 April 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  36. ^ Rao, Victor. "Coronavirus: Plagued by conspiracy theories and misinformation". Telangana Today. Archived from the original on 27 December 2020. Retrieved 1 July 2020.

Further reading

External links

Media files used on this page

SARS-CoV-2 (Wikimedia colors).svg
Author/Creator: Geraki, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
SARS-CoV-2 logo in Wikimedia colors
WHO Rod.svg
The rod of Asclepius as depicted in the WHO logo.
Author/Creator: User:FoeNyx © 2004 (artistic illustration), Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
VIH - HIV / SIDA - AIDS viruses.
WikiProject COVID-19 Urdu Logo.svg
Author/Creator: Yethrosh, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Urdu Logo of Urdu WIkiProject Covid-19
WMF coronavirus pandemic message 2.png
Author/Creator: Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Katherine Maher, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Screenshot English Wikipedia, 26 March 2020:

"(i) A message to our readers about COVID-19

With the uncertainty surrounding the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, we want to reassure our readers across the globe that our volunteers are working to bring you a trusted source of unbiased information. Throughout these challenging times, knowledge must and will remain open for all.

We find ourselves in remarkable circumstances this year. The COVID-19 pandemic makes clear our global human interconnectedness and the responsibilities we have to one another. We have no precedent for its challenges, but we do know that our best response relies on the sort of global empathy, cooperation, and community building that sit at the heart of our movement.

I want to acknowledge the invaluable work of all the contributors on Wikipedia. Thank you for keeping a close watch and keeping misinformation at bay. Our coronavirus articles have received tens of thousands of edits by thousands of editors since the start of the pandemic. We are proving that, even in a time of social distancing, we can celebrate our human bond by coming together online to share facts and information.

We will keep working around the clock to bring you reliable and neutral information. Now, as ever, our priority is to remain worthy of your trust.

Take good care,

Katherine Maher,
Executive Director, Wikimedia Foundation

Wikiproject viewership march 2020.png
Author/Creator: Enwebb, Licence: GPLv3
Viewership of WikiProject Medicine, WikiProject Viruses, and WikiProject Covid-19 in the month of March 2020
FACT- 5G mobile networks DO NOT spread COVID-19.svg
Author/Creator: , Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0 igo
This is a SVG copy of File:FACT- 5G mobile networks DO NOT spread COVID-19.png (a PNG file). The SVG file contains the text translation to French.

The transcription is :

Virus cannot travel on radio
waves/mobile networks.
COVID-19 is spreading in many countries
that do not have 5G mobile networks.

COVID-19 is spread through respiratory
droplets when an infected person
coughs, sneezes or speaks. People
can also be infected by touching
a contaminated surface and then
their eyes, mouth or nose.

5G mobile networks
DO NOT spread COVID-19

#coronavirus #COVID19

8 April 2020