Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales described his company as a “neutral” and “unbiased” source for information last week at the Viva Technology Conference in Paris where he also blasted the “populist media” for their pro-Brexit coverage, however many would consider this statement far from the truth.
Wikipedia is frequently embroiled in controversy surrounding political biases, corrupt mismanagement, and attempts to secretly remove factual information contrary to their narrative. Here are seven of the online encyclopedia’s worst moments.
1. Removing Orlando from the “Islamist Terrorist Attacks” List
In June, after the deadly terrorist attack performed by Omar Mateen, who pledged his allegiance to ISIS before shooting and killing 49 homosexuals at a gay club in Orlando, Wikipedia and the liberal media went full force in an attempt to distance Mateen from Islam. Wikipedia’s contribution included removing the attack from the Islamist Terrorist Attacks list, and referring to the incident primarily as a “shooting” instead of a terrorist attack. To this day the Orlando terrorist attack is not listed under Wikipedia’s Islamist attacks list, a bizarre response to America’s most deadly attack since 9/11.
2. Attempting to remove references of left-wing activist’s praise for Osama Bin Laden
In May, after Google faced mass controversy for celebrating Bin Laden ally and far-left activist Yuri Kochiyama on their Google doodles homepage, Wikipedia attempted to scrub all references of the praise that Kochiyama made towards Bin Laden and an array of other controversial dictators. An editing war was started between those who wanted to portray the truth of Kochiyama’s numerous quotes of praise, and those who attempted to stop them citing “anti-Islamic edits” as a reason to dismiss these facts. Numerous terms such as “black supremacy” were also changed to alternatives such as “black liberation movement”.
3. Doxing the editor of Adland and revealing her home address
In January, the editor of advertising blog Adland revealed to Breitbart Tech that a Wikipedia editor had been doxing her, a term for revealing personal information such as addresses and phone numbers to the public, for years due to her support of the anti-SJW consumer revolt movement GamerGate. Wikipedia allegedly refused to intervene in the matter and editor Åsk “Dabitch” Wäppling also repeatedly found pages for her website being defaced and removed by editors.
“[The editor’s] MO is to delete any and all reliable sources from a targeted Wikipedia page, until it’s barely a stub, and then suggest it for deletion”, claimed Wäppling.
“The editor engaged in original research in order to disprove my job title, and found a idle sole proprietorship I started more than twenty years ago to make his point. He linked a database page showing this, thereby linking my home address and personal ID number, on several English Wikipedia pages. Anyone on the planet that hits up Adland on the Wikipedia could now find this information just a click away.
As soon as I was made aware that my home address and national ID/birth date number was linked from several pages on the English Wikipedia I logged into an Wikipedia IRC chat help channel to ask for help and what policies [Wikipedia] had regarding such information. This was in 2011. An editor in the chat explained that since the information existed on a web page, it could be linked, but he added a “noindex” tag to the pages so that Google would not follow the links and spider the information.”
4. GamerGate, one of the most biased pages on Wikipedia
Googling the consumer revolt movement GamerGate will provide Wikipedia’s page on the subject as the first suggestion. However the page, which describes GamerGate as a “harassment campaign” that “targeted several women in the video game industry”, could not be further from the truth. Despite there being no factual evidence that the movement was even remotely targeted against women as a harassment campaign, Wikipedia to this day refuses any edits on the page contrary to this narrative, and will actively ban users that even attempt to add factual information.
5. Placing a long-standing editor on trial for “off-site harassment” without presenting any evidence of such to the wider Wikipedian community — or to the editor!
In January, “The Devils Advocate”, a longstanding Wikipedia editor was banned from the site indefinitely for “off-site harassment,” despite the fact that no evidence of harassment was provided to other editors by Wikipedia’s committee. The editor was never given an opportunity to defend himself against the allegations and no other details about the alleged harassment were made public to those skeptical about the ban.
“You shouldn’t just trust any article on Wikipedia. Not only do you have rampant editing by people with conflicts of interest, including paid editors, you also have a lot of people who edit Wikipedia to win ideological battles” said the former editor in an interview with Breitbart Tech.
“The ways that bias creeps into Wikipedia articles can be hard to discern if you have experienced editors trying to slant it towards their beliefs. Not to mention there are hoaxers, vandals, and incompetents, who make all sorts of edits that limits the site’s usefulness. I don’t think people should avoid any article per se, but readers need to understand that Wikipedia is at best a gateway to more reliable information and it isn’t even successful at that sometimes. You may be able to find good quality articles on the site, but it is a gamble to take anything said there at face value.”
6. The Grant Shapps Debacle
In 2015, British Conservative party politician Grant Shapps was hit with a major controversy after senior Wikipedia admin Richard Symonds told the Guardian that Shapps had been using a sockpuppet account to edit his own Wikipedia page as well as other rivals in the Conservative party cabinet. Shapps’ career was put in significant detriment during the allegations despite no hard evidence that the account was owned by the politician, and it was eventually revealed that Symonds was a former member of rival party, the Liberal Democrats.
7. Trying To Get A Tech Journalist Fired For Things He Never Said
The most recent Wikipedia controversy, explained here by Allum Bokhari, involves David Auerbach, a highly regarded technology columnist for Slate, and one of Wikipedia’s most effective critics. Auerbach was recently targeted by Robert “Gamaliel” Fernandez, a longtime Wikipedia editor and board member of Wikimedia DC who is notorious for his extreme views on the GamerGate controversy (see above.)
Fernandez sent several tweets to Auerbach and his employers, suggesting that the columnist ought to be fired for being “pro-Brexit, pro-Gamergate, anti-SJW” and a “libel machine.” Auerbach is in fact none of those things, and Gamaliel’s tirade easily flouted Wikipedia’s tight rules on off-site harassment. Nonetheless, both Wikimedia DC and Wikipedia’s arbitration committee have yet to take any action against Fernandez — or even disavow his comments.
Compare this case to item number 5 on this list, and the depth of Wikipedia’s malaise becomes apparent.