At 9.25am on Monday, a Swedish Wikipedia user employing the alias Kungcarl – a shortened version of the name of Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf – switched the picture atop the current US president’s entry on the Swedish version of the online encyclopedia.
Instead of Obama’s official White House portrait, visitors to the Swedish Wikipedia on Monday morning were instead greeted by a picture of a bushel of carrots.
“That’s really strange,” Axel Pettersson, spokesperson for Wikipedia in Sweden, told The Local.
The carrot image, sourced to the US Department of Agriculture, remained on Obama’s Wikipedia entry until about 10.30am, when Pettersson replaced it with the official White House portrait.
Pettersson explained that Wikipedia ‘vandalism’ is a common problem, but that most instances of faulty information or images are corrected within minutes by one Wikipedia’s many registered users.
Earlier on Monday, the same user had switched Obama’s portrait for an image of a turtle, but the change was reversed by another user a minute later.
“No one gets paid to keep track of these things,” Pettersson explained.
“But it’s rare that you actually see vandalism like this. These carrots were up for quite a long time considering how well visited the page is.”
Obama’s Swedish Wikipedia entry is marked with a green star, indicating that it is considered an especially detailed and informative article.
According to Petterrsson, the article receives between 300 and 400 visitors per day on average, a number of who nevertheless take time to alter the entry with faulty information.
In addition to replacing Obama’s portrait with the image of carrots, ‘Kungcarl’ also edited the article to indicate that the US president had won a Grammy Award, rather than the Nobel Peace Prize.
While another Wikipedia user quickly corrected the Grammy-Nobel mistake, the carrot picture was left unchanged.
Petterrsson had few theories as to why the image was chosen or why it was left unchanged for so long, but was sceptical toward the idea that it may have had something to do with Obama’s announcement that US forces had killed terror leader Osama bin Laden.
“I think the vandalism would have happened irrespective of bin Laden’s fate,” he said.
Kungcarl has since been banned by another Wikipedia user on suspicions of being a “sock puppet”, the term for someone who assumes an online identity for purposes of deception.
Petterrsson explained that dealing with online ‘vandalism’ is a continual challenge for Wikipedia users.
“I don’t understand why people do this vandalism instead of just editing and writing articles,” he said.