Editors on Wikipedia had financial blog Zero Hedge banned as a Wikipedia source following a NBC News hit piece about its criticism of Black Lives Matter, which got the blog temporarily demonetized by Google and labeled “far-right” on its Wikipedia page. The Federalist, also targeted by the piece and threatened with demonetization, was smeared when editors repeated false claims in the initial piece followed by further negative edits to the outlet and founder Ben Domenech’s pages. Both were previously smeared on Wikipedia.
The decision to ban Zero Hedge was made despite it barely being used on the site because of Wikipedia policies on citing blogs, which prompted claims the ban was politically-motivated.
NBC published an article last month regarding content on Zero Hedge, a popular financial blog with a conservative-libertarian slant, and conservative news outlet the Federalist. In the piece, NBC cited Center for Countering Digital Hate, a group claiming to fight “hate and misinformation” online, which argued both outlets were “racist” because of articles criticizing Black Lives Matter protests and riots after the death of George Floyd in police custody. Originally, NBC claimed both outlets were demonetized by Google in response. Google later clarified only Zero Hedge was demonetized and the Federalist warned with the reasons being comments under the articles.
Within days of the article being published, editor “Newslinger” started a discussion about Zero Hedge in an area editors use to debate the reliability of sources. Under twenty editors weighed in on the discussion, all but three voting to ban the use of Zero Hedge as a source for factual claims leading to editor “Hemiauchenia” closing it as having clear consensus for a sourcing ban. Although such discussions are typically closed by an administrator, users with special privileges on the site, Hemiauchenia closed it as a non-administrator, which is permitted in decisions seen as less contentious.
Those who objected to or questioned the ban mostly did so out of opposition to the process itself. Editor “Blueboar” objected to the “deprecation” system, what the process for banning the use of sources is called, stating it functions as a blacklist that prohibits the use of sources even in cases where it would still be legitimate, such as when cited for claims about themselves. One editor favored the sourcing ban, but still doubted the purpose. He noted Zero Hedge was cited less than 20 times and it appeared to be largely appropriate uses in keeping with Wikipedia’s general avoidance of blogs under site policy. Another editor suggested the ban push was influenced by the blog’s unpopular positions.
Both Zero Hedge and the Federalist were subjected to smears in the wake of NBC’s hit piece on the outlets. Initially, editors repeated false claims about the Federalist being demonetized over its Black Lives Matter coverage with the false claims being edited back in repeatedly for several hours even after NBC corrected its article. On the page for Domenech, the outlet’s co-founder, the false claim remained nearly a day before being corrected. On Zero Hedge’s page, an editor labeled the blog “far-right” citing NBC’s piece, and a discussion about the label approved it.
Each has also previously been targeted with smears by left-wing editors, particularly since President Donald Trump launched his run for office. In early 2016, the Zero Hedge Wikipedia page was largely confined to discussing its financial stories until news outlets began linking the blog to Trump and the alt-right. Material painting Zero Hedge as Russian propaganda began being added, including a heavy expansion smearing the blog with such claims by editor “Neutrality” who regularly edits with a bias against conservatives. These smears were later added to the article’s intro as well. Further smears have been added this year citing outlets such as the left-wing New Republic.
Wikipedia editors have targeted the Federalist since 2014 when it reported astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s use of dubious quotes, particularly one from former President George W. Bush about God, which Tyson claimed was used after 9/11 to demean Islam. Bush’s actual words were commemorating the astronauts who died in the Columbia shuttle disaster. Media coverage of the controversy was added to Tyson’s page with editors sympathetic to Tyson targeting the Federalist and attempting to have its page deleted entirely. Wikipedia criticism site Wikipediocracy noted the controversy demonstrated Wikipedia’s political bias. One left-wing Wikipedia administrator, Robert “Gamaliel” Fernandez, even abused his position in the dispute, a common pattern for Fernandez.
Further smears followed the Tyson controversy and, as with Zero Hedge, escalated as the outlet began supporting Trump. Editor “Snooganssnoogans” has been most aggressive in smearing the Federalist, having added most of the content on controversies. This included attacks on the outlet publishing an opinion piece defending 2017 Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, characterizing a piece suggesting fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe may have leaked Russia investigation details to CNN as a “conspiracy theory” citing the left-wing New Republic and heavily citing Media Matters to accuse The Federalist of “coronavirus pandemic misinformation” over opinion pieces criticizing hardline responses to the pandemic and early extreme casualty projections.
Previously sanctioned for an anti-conservative bias, Snooganssnoogans is prolific in targeting conservative and right-wing individuals and news outlets. Articles on conservatives such as Candace Owens, Mark Levin, Tucker Carlson, and Stefan Molyneux have all been targeted with smears by the editor. Gateway Pundit and Fox News are conservative news outlets he also targeted, with his smears of Gateway Pundit later appearing in news articles, something that has also occurred with several conservative individuals he targeted. Snooganssnoogans was also involved in keeping negative information in the article about Zero Hedge.
Other editors involved in smearing The Federalist added claims of a “labor law violation” due to co-founder Domenech joking on Twitter that if employees tried to unionize he would send them “back to the salt mine.” Editor “Cathradgenations” added this claim and much of the negative material on The Federalist’s page, including material originally added by Snooganssnoogans, to the page on Domenech in a massive expansion over hundreds of edits. Cathradgenations was also the editor who kept NBC’s initial false claims about The Federalist in Domenech’s article for nearly an entire day.
Smearing conservative news outlets on Wikipedia and later banning them is a common pattern on the site, which has been criticized by its co-founder for a left-wing bias. Gateway Pundit was ultimately banned as a source on Wikipedia alongside The Epoch Times, which had also been smeared by NBC News like Zero Hedge and subsequently attacked on Wikipedia. Breitbart itself was banned as a source on Wikipedia the same year its heavily biased Wikipedia page was used by Facebook to discredit it on the social media site. Many Big Tech companies, as well as major media outlets and academics, rely on Wikipedia despite its bias.
T. D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators. Due to previous witch-hunts led by mainstream Wikipedians against their critics, Adler writes under an alias.