Here’s a story of how I tried to remove a fake story marginally related to COVID-19 from Wikipedia, and, at least for now, achieved the opposite and contributed to its dissemination and perpetuation.
On a BBC-produced podcast (in Russian) I heard a story about Lupe Hernández, a nurse who allegedly invented hand sanitizer. The story was born in a 2012 Guardian article, which was subsequently quoted by viral Facebook posts and a bunch of news sites in Spanish and a bunch of other languages, and even mention in an academic nursing book published by Springer. In the last few months hand sanitizer became more popular than ever, and so the story regained popularity.
When contacted for confirmation, the original Guardian story’s author said that “she couldn’t remember the source, and that her notebooks are in storage facility she currently can’t get to”.
The podcast, as well as a thorough LA Times article, conclude that the whole story is probably an urban legend and that the person probably never existed. No one was even sure whether it’s a woman or a man, even though the original story said “she”.
The podcast did mention that there is a very short Wikipedia article. I proposed it for deletion. The result of the deletion discussion was that the article was kept and renamed to “Lupe Hernández hand sanitizer legend”.
Before it was renamed in the English Wikipedia to be an article about a legend, it was also translated to Spanish and French, as an article about “Guadalupe Hernández”, a female nurse who invented hand sanitizer, even though zero sources say that her name was actually “Guadalupe”. Sure, you can assume that “Lupe” is short for “Guadalupe”, as some imaginative writers did, but why do we do it on Wikimedia sites?
I’m still of the firm opinion that the subject should be completely removed from Wikipedia in all languages, as well as from Wikidata, but there’s only so much I can do about this. If any of you know French or Spanish, can you please make sure the articles in your languages are not too awful, or perhaps consider proposing them for deletion?
And if you think I’m badly wrong about it all, please do tell me, too.