Wikipedia’s ‘Recession’ Page Shows 41 Edits In One Week, Attempts At Changing Definition
An image of a woman holding a cell phone in front of the Wikipedia logo displayed on a computer screen. On Tuesday, January 12, 2021, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
(Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A Wikipedia administrator has placed a pause on edits to Wikipedia’s “Recession” page by unregistered users until early August to stop “vandalism” and “malicious” content after the page was edited 41 times in the past seven days with repeated attempts to alter the historical definition of a recession.

On Thursday, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimated that the U.S. economy shrank for the second straight quarter at a 0.9 annualized rate. In recent weeks, the Biden administration had argued that there is no agreed-upon definition of a recession, despite economists consistently saying a recession can be signaled by two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth. The plethora of Wikipedia revisions come as the Biden administration attempts to go around the commonly held definition of the term.

On Wednesday, writer Ann Bauer flagged the edits, tweeting, “Here is the revision history from roughly the past 24 hours on Wikipedia’s RECESSION page,” while showing the extensive list.

For example, an editor by the name “Soibangla” — the third most prominent member of the Recession page by authorship — repeatedly deleted additions by other editors who used the textbook definition of a recession as being two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.

The editor, who contributed to more than a thousand other Wikipedia articles, replaced the historically-applied indicator with various ambiguous explanations. For example, one of Soibangla’s edits claimed, “There is no global consensus on” what a recession is.

Other editors, however, tried changing or reverting the definitions, only to be foiled by other editors who removed their changes.

There have been so many edits to the page in such a short time that a Wikipedia administrator named “Anarchyte” had to pause all additions due to “Persistent addition of unsourced or poorly sourced content,” requiring all edits to be confirmed by trusted users.

Wikipedia editors are not paid by the company and can be banned if they repeatedly violate its rules.

As of publication, many of the changes made by users have been deleted, and the historical definition is live on the site, albeit with added context. 

The administrator Anarchyte also tagged the post with “Twinkle,” which is used to “stop vandalism, or the malicious addition and/or deletion of content on a page.” This verification process will be in place for weeks, if not months. 

On the national stage, White House economic advisor Brian Deese has claimed that a recession is not universally defined as two straight quarters of negative growth.

“It’s not the definition that economists have traditionally relied on,” Deese recently said regarding the aforementioned definition.

In 2008, Deese told the media, “Economists have a technical definition of recession, which is two consecutive quarters of negative growth.”

On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also refused to acknowledge that the U.S. was heading toward a recession and claimed that the economy was in a “transition” with growth “slowing.”

“This is not an economy that’s in recession,” she told NBC News’ Chuck Todd. “But we’re in a period of transition in which growth is slowing and that’s necessary and appropriate and we need to be growing at a steady and sustainable pace. So there is a slowdown and businesses can see that and that’s appropriate, given that people now have jobs and we have a strong labor market.”

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