Politics 9 April 2013 How Wikipedia covered Thatcher's death Edit wars and Alex Salmond. Print HTML I heard about the news that Margaret Thatcher had died at 12:48 yesterday – on Twitter, naturally: REPORTS: Margaret Thatcher has died — Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) April 8, 2013 In a matter of seconds, four separate sources had tweeted the news, making it pretty unlikely to be a false alarm. And four minutes after that, the first Wikipedia editor went to work: Revision as of 02:29, 4 April 2013 Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS, née Roberts (born 13 October 1925), is a British politician… Revision as of 11:52, 8 April 2013. Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS, née Roberts (born 13 October 1925), died April 8th, 2013, was a British politician… Over the next hour, there were 76 separate edits, as users piled on to the breaking news. Unusually for Wikipedia, these came from across the site's userbase; there were a few hardcore editors jumping in to clean up the text, but as many of the changes were made by contributors with few edits to their name. Revision as of 12:17, 8 April 2013 (removed "Oldest Living Former Prime Minister" honorific title) But unlike the best of Wikipedia's responses to breaking news, Thatcher's page did not see an influx of first-time users. That's because it was "semi-protected", a limitation the site imposes on certain pages which are prone to vandalism. And the Margaret Thatcher page was certainly prone to vandalism. Revision as of 00:42, 8 March 2008 (←Replaced page with 'SHE IS DEAD. DO WHAT YE WANT WITH YER SATAN.') Semi-protection came in ten minutes after that edit, and has remained ever since. Which is probably for the best. Revision as of 12:10, 8 April 2013 (→Honours: was, past tense) The first hour of edits were largely clean-up. Tenses were changed, dates were added in, and a whole section on her death was introduced. But after that, the edit wars began. A section headlined "Reactions to her death" was introduced at 12:22, but removed by 12:50, after an editor added the note "please do not add tributes from around the world. It is unnecessary and clutters the article." Revision as of 12:50, 8 April 2013 (→Illness and death: we don't need a separate section for this, and we need to make sure this doesn't degenerate into a book of condolences) That didn't stop people adding in the innumerable statements world leaders were making. Revision as of 16:58, 8 April 2013 by Zcbeaton (→Illness and death: Added response from Alex Salmond, statement from Glasgow City Council.) Revision as of 17:00, 8 April 2013 (Undid revision by Zcbeaton: massively undue weight) Particularly harsh was the removal of Bulgarian Premier Marin Raykov's statement, with the words "bullshit, poorly sourced, badly written" In the end, Thatcher's death wasn't a time for Wikipedia to shine. The basic facts of the situation were established early on, and the only deeper piece of information – that she had died in bed in the Ritz hotel – had arrived within four hours (although it was shortly removed because it didn't have a source cited). The urge to grow the article didn't lead to a deeper haul of information, but just squabbling edit wars over which piece of irrelevant data to include next. Revision as of 03:48, 9 April 2013 (→Political legacy: Added comments about the Scottish Parliament.) But in its own quiet way, Wikipedia proved its worth yet again. Just a day after her death was announced, the article has a detailed section on her death and legacy; the edit wars are quieting down; and a new article, on the Death and funeral of Margaret Thatcher, has been created. What's left is left for the future. › How the pundits are becoming more influential than the politicians Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter. Subscribe More Related articles 25 times people used Brexit to attack Muslims since the EU referendum Exclusive: Labour MEPs call for Jeremy Corbyn to resign as leader What are the consequences of Brexit for the refugee crisis?