Research:Historical Revisionism in Japanese Wikipedia

09:09, 29 September 2022 (UTC)
Duration:  2022-October – ??
disinformation, historical revisionism, knowledge integrity

This page documents a research project in progress.
Information may be incomplete and change as the project progresses.
Please contact the project lead before formally citing or reusing results from this page.

In recent years, the rise of right-wing populism has been noticeable in many countries and made historical revisionism more visible in society. Interpretation of historical events is essential to the right-wing ideology, especially when national identity and pride are at stake. Therefore, the uptake of right-wing populism may affect the public’s historical view.

This study aims to investigate the recent development concerning historical revisionism. To do this, this study measures the volume and ideological direction and examines the driving force of revisionism using the edit history of Wikipedia's historical pages. Wikipedia is one of the optimal tools to capture the development of interest. Anyone can edit almost any Wikipedia page, and edits are recorded. Thus, the edit history of Wikipedia allows us to capture the dynamics in the historical views of the public. Therefore, although content on Wikipedia must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), we can also observe any ideological direction taking place through edits. Additionally, Wikipedia makes international comparisons between different languages easier since it provides links between the pages on the same topic. Last but not least, a large part of Wikipedia data is publicly open and well-prepared, which allows the research to be replicable.

Three research questions drive this study:

  1. Has historical revisionism become more prevalent in recent times?
  2. Is the recent historical revisionism characterized by right-wing ideologies?
  3. What is the main driving force of the identified development?

Methodology Edit

To answer the first and the second question, this study analyzes the edit history and the ideological direction of the individual edits on the relevant pages. Most importantly, we check whether the individual editorial change reflects the historical view of right-wing populism. The third question can be rephrased as whether the change is due to the manipulation of certain groups (i.e., disinformation), as in the case of the Croatian edition[1]. To answer this question, we investigate the process behind the individual revisions and examine the existence of certain groups by utilizing the editors' network constructed by their involvement in different page revisions, without processing personal data and maintaining the privacy of the identity of all editors involved in the study. Simultaneously, we put Wikipedia in a broader context of media and communication. That is, we show the trend of historical revisionism using different sources to see if the change of Wikipedia goes along with others. Social media, surveys, and Google Trends will be used as sources representing the public attitude changes, and election results and politicians’ discourse will be sources representing the development in the political realm.

In national history, how remembering wartime events is a sensitive and essential topic. For this reason, this study first focuses on WWII periods and countries deeply involved in WWII. Among those countries, Japan will be the country of our first investigation. In the last decades, Japanese politics made a rightward shift, including the rise of extreme right-wingers[2][3]. On social media, right-wing discourse is more prevalent, and their messages reach a wider range of moderate users than those from the left-wing[4][5][6]. The extreme right-wingers have tried to disseminate different interpretations of multiple historical events, especially those during WWII. Also, it is pointed out that some historical pages of the Japanese Wikipedia were edited in a way that reflects extreme right-wing ideas [7].

References Edit

  1. Wikimedia Foundation. 2021. “Croatian Disinformation Assessment Report.”
  2. Nakano, Koichi. 2016. “New Right Transformation in Japan.” In Disasters and Social Crisis in Contemporary Japan: Political, Religious, and Sociocultural Responses, edited by Mark R. Mullins and Koichi Nakano, 23–41. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.
  3. Higuchi, Naoto. 2018. “The Radical Right in Japan.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Radical Right, edited by Jens Rydgren. Oxford University Press.
  4. Yoshida, Mitsuo, Takeshi Sakaki, Tetsuro Kobayashi, and Fujio Toriumi. 2021. “Japanese Conservative Messages Propagate to Moderate Users Better than Their Liberal Counterparts on Twitter.” Scientific Reports 11 (1): 19224.
  5. Schäfer, Fabian, Stefan Evert, and Philipp Heinrich. 2017. “Japan’s 2014 General Election: Political Bots, Right-Wing Internet Activism, and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s Hidden Nationalist Agenda.” Big Data 5 (4): 294–309.
  6. Schäfer, Fabian. 2022. “Japan’s Shift to the Right: Computational Propaganda, Abe Shinzō’s LDP, and Internet Right-Wingers (Netto Uyo).” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 20 (2).
  7. Sato, Yumiko. 2021. Non-English Editions of Wikipedia Have a Misinformation Problem.