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The Wikipedia logo seen on a tablet screen in Paris on December 4, 2012. Photo: AFP

Wikipedia blocks unregistered users from editing ‘Recession’ page amid fight over its definition after US GDP drop

  • Wikipedia’s ‘Recession’ entry has been changed to ‘semi-protected’ after hundreds of edits that violated the collaborative encyclopedia’s policies
  • The constant updates and reverted changes came after news that US GDP fell for a second quarter in a row, a common but unofficial definition of a recession

Wikipedia is changing editing rules on its “Recession” page after a fierce battle between users over its precise definition.

Starting on Wednesday, updates from unregistered users or new accounts will have to be reviewed and accepted by an editor before being visible to most readers. The move comes after the entry received hundreds of edits that violated Wikipedia policies, urging editors to make the page “semi-protected”, restricting revisions.

“Semi-protected articles can only be edited by logged-in users whose accounts are at least 4 days old and have made at least 10 edits,” Wikimedia, the foundation behind Wikipedia, said in an emailed statement, adding that the policy is not uncommon for articles that receive a sudden influx of edits. “Volunteer editors use these and other tools on a regular basis to help ensure that Wikipedia content is neutral and well-sourced.”

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The frantic Wikipedia dispute, which saw hundreds of users making and reverting changes to the page, revolves around whether an economic downturn should first and foremost be defined as two quarters of falling GDP.

Data published by the US Commerce Department last week showed that gross domestic product fell at a 0.9 per cent annualised rate in the second quarter. That follows a 1.6 per cent decline in the first three months of the year, adding fuel to recession fears.

As it stands, the Wikipedia article reads: “According to most scholars, countries, economists and central banks, a recession refers to a period of two or more consecutive quarters of decline in a country’s real gross domestic product (real GDP).”


The problem is that in the US, a recession is not called off by the two-quarter rule, but rather by a group of eight academics at the National Bureau of Economic Research, who by the way, are nowhere near to making a call on the dreaded R-word.

In the meantime, Wikipedia’s volunteer editors have created a thread to debate the phrasing of the definition and “avoid making clowns of ourselves”.