China critics the Epoch Times and conservative outlet the Gateway Pundit have been banned from use as reliable sources on Wikipedia in the latest cases of news outlets that support President Trump being banned from the online encyclopedia. The Epoch Times ban proposal cited NBC’s hit piece on the site over its coverage of improprieties in the Russia investigation, commonly called Spygate, which prompted smear efforts against the outlet on Wikipedia. Gateway Pundit was proposed for a ban shortly after Epoch Times.
The Epoch Times Wikipedia ban proposal was apparently prompted by one of its articles being cited on the Wikipedia page for Joseph Mifsud, a key controversial figure in the origins of the discredited Russia investigation. Gateway Pundit’s ban was in response to the outlet being cited for past media silence over Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election
Over the past year, Wikipedia editors have been on a banning spree targeting conservative news sources. Having previously banned the Daily Mail as a source, the following year marked the beginning of an acceleration of the process. Since then, editors have imposed similar bans on fifteen other sites aside from Epoch Times and Gateway Pundit. While some data-focused sites and state-owned outlets in Venezuela and Iran have also been banned, the bulk of the sites banned have been conservative-leaning news outlets. Breitbart News was blacklisted as a “reliable source” on Wikipedia in 2018.
Epoch Times was banned following a proposal by editor “Bender235” in early October. Part of the ban argument was an NBC News article smearing the outlet for its coverage of the “Spygate” controversy regarding the conduct of the Russia investigation, which major news outlets have dismissed as “conspiracy theories” even after the Justice Department Inspector General recently found serious misconduct and use of false information in surveillance warrant applications. NBC’s article was previously the impetus for editors to smear Epoch Times on Wikipedia. Bender also claimed the outlet used “alt-right buzzwords” in ads, identifying phrases such as “mainstream media”, “hidden agendas”, and “Russia hoax” as examples and suggested they could have “well come from a Trump campaign spokesperson.”
As in previous cases, while a number of editors argued for allowing Epoch Times in some cases, left-wing and anti-Trump editors calling for a ban significantly outnumbered them in the discussion. Of those supporting a ban, editor Simonm223 notably has a history of editing favorable to China. Simon, a self-proclaimed socialist, has downplayed the re-education camps for Muslims, particularly Uyghurs, in Xinjiang province and repeatedly removed details about pro-Beijing politicians in Hong Kong associating with members of the Triad criminal organization. He also regularly defends the violent Antifa group and praised Antifa terrorist Wilhem van Spronsen’s attack on an ICE detention facility.
Gateway Pundit’s ban came from a proposal soon after the proposed ban for Epoch Times. The ban proposal came in response to editor “BullRangifer” removing a 2017 piece criticizing media silence on Ukraine colluding with Democrats to influence the 2016 election. The article was originally added to frame Gateway Pundit as “fueling conspiracy theories” related to the impeachment inquiry over Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In fact, the piece correctly noted Politico’s coverage of DNC contractor Alexandra Chalupa soliciting Ukrainian interference and then-Democratic minority leader of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff expressing concerns about the reported interference.
Criticism of Gateway Pundit was harsher during the ban discussion, though still predominantly from left-wing editors. Some regarded the outlet as unreliable, but argued against a full sourcing ban as they believed some legitimate uses may exist. In addition to Simonm223, who also voted for the ban, editors advocating a ban included “Snooganssnoogans” and “Volunteer Marek” who each have a history of smearing the outlet on Wikipedia.
Editor “Snoogansnoogans” previously added a description to Gateway Pundit’s Wikipedia article stating the site “is known for publishing falsehoods and spreading hoaxes.” Marek a year later labeled the outlet a “fake news website” and each description persists to this day in some way despite initially not being based on any sources considered “reliable” on Wikipedia. However, those labels and descriptions subsequently made their way to major media outlets. Those outlets were later cited to back up the material on Wikipedia, in an apparent “citogenesis” case, referring to a form of circular sourcing.
With both Epoch Times and Gateway Pundit, the offense that got them banned was challenging the predominant narrative about the Russia collusion hoax and raising concerns about the propriety of the investigation into the Trump campaign, where these outlets proved more valid in their reporting than sources deemed “reliable” on Wikipedia. That this would prompt Wikipedia editors to ban the outlets is consistent with wider efforts to spin the outcome of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which discredited the collusion allegations, and to spin the impeachment narrative on Ukraine against Trump. Such efforts are also consistent with Wikipedia’s significant left-wing bias.
(Disclosure: The author has been involved in disputes on Wikipedia with some parties referenced in this article)
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.