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Wikipedia temporarily defaced by vandal who edited template to show Nazi flag

Swastikas replaced Wikipedia articles for a short time on Monday after the online encyclopedia was targeted by a vandal.


Wikipedia was behaving oddly for a number of users.

Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The reference website Wikipedia was targeted by a vandal on Monday who edited a template used to support page functionality to show a Nazi flag. The issue was reported by a number of users on social media who were shocked to see swastikas appear across the site.

When people tried to look at pages, including those belonging to a number of actors, TV shows and politicians, they would instead be greeted with no text or images, just the Nazi symbol presented on a red background. 

The problem only seemed to affect the site for a short period of time around 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT, and Wikipedia returned to normal before CNET was able to replicate the issue.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia and described the incident as "particularly vile," said that the vandalism was identified and reversed by volunteer administrators within five minutes of it occurring. Within 15 minutes of the hate symbol appearing on the site, the volunteers had made changes to the template to ensure it was protected from further vandalism. 

"In the spirit of open editing and assuming good faith, this is a step rarely taken with any areas of Wikipedia unless an incident such as this warrants it," said a spokeswoman for Wikimedia.

The account responsible has now been blocked for violating a number of Wikipedia's policies, and Wikimedia said it will further evaluate the situation to see if any other action is warranted.

Due to its open-source nature, Wikipedia has been the subject of many inflammatory edits over the years, but in most cases they only affect a single article at a time. "Over the years, a number of tools and processes have been developed to quickly spot and revert vandalism on the site," said the Wikimedia spokeswoman, adding that this is how the administrators were able to quickly catch and reverse Monday's vandalism.