Left-wing Wikipedia editors are using articles about the police-involved death of George Floyd and subsequent protests to attack President Donald Trump, including creating individual articles attacking his statements and actions to get them on Wikipedia’s front page. Editors have unduly favored comments criticizing Trump or America, even uncritically repeating attacks from authoritarian governments such as China and Iran, and emphasized police violence over violence from protestors, including Antifa. Such efforts have extended to pushing claims of “far-right” involvement.
A “BlackLivesMatter” group was formed by left-wing Wikipedia editors to coordinate work on articles about police violence and race relations. Others have tried rallying editors to remove or minimize mentions of violence from Antifa’s Wikipedia page after Trump and Attorney General Barr labeled the group domestic terrorists.
While riots raged across the United States over Floyd’s death, editors on Wikipedia promptly set out to spin the narrative of the unrest against Trump. Sections of Wikipedia articles on the protests and Floyd’s death noting reactions to these events have overwhelmingly focused on criticism of Trump’s comments on the case. At one point an editor included a long diatribe against Trump likening his calls for military intervention to stop rioting to the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It remained part of the article for nearly a day, only being removed due to lack of a citation.
Editors also took the step of creating entire articles dedicated to comments or actions from Trump in response to the unrest. One such article was on the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” used by Trump in response to the widespread rioting as he called for deployment of National Guard forces to contain the violence. The page, associating the negative racial history of its prior usage with Trump, has been approved for appearance on the front page of Wikipedia, a tactic editors have used to prominently smear Trump in the past.
Another article was created about the clearing of the area around St. John’s Church in D.C. Though an editor sought to have the page deleted under Wikipedia policies, suggesting its contents belonged in the broader protest page, that discussion was eventually swarmed by left-wing editors and the article was kept on the site. Disputes over the article’s title prompted another discussion dominated by left-wing editors with the chosen title calling the event a “photo-op” echoing media spin. In the article itself, the list of responses to Trump’s action was heavily slanted towards critics. Even most Republican Senators reported as defending him were excluded, while including most who criticized him.
Many of the top contributors to the Wikipedia page on the protests are editors with a history of left-wing bias. Such bias is evident from the article intro, which mentions various controversial police actions, but barely mentions rioting. In the article body, a section on violence skews against police. Whole paragraphs are devoted to singular incidents of a protestor being injured by non-lethal ammunition, yet only a single sentence mentions looters murdering retired St. Louis police captain David Dorn. Similarly, short mentions are devoted to other attacks on police during the rioting.
A section on violence against journalists skews heavily against police, devoting two paragraphs to the arrest of a CNN crew, while only having one sentence about protestors attacking and vandalizing CNN’s headquarters. The section also leads with a paragraph seeking to blame violence against journalists on Trump’s criticism of the media. The Wikipedia page’s section on international reactions, similar to the page on Trump’s St. John’s visit, overwhelmingly favored criticism. This included comments attacking the United States from authoritarian governments in China, Iran, Venezuela, and Russia, being repeated uncritically without noting the self-serving motives of such criticism given the repressive measures those governments took against recent protests in their own countries.
Further biased editing on the page included a section on “reports of extremist activities” focusing on largely dubious claims of “far-right” involvement in violence and rioting. Only half as much content focused on the violent Antifa movement’s involvement and statements from Trump and Attorney General Barr, which criticized the far-left group as engaging in terrorism. The material on “far-right” involvement was primarily added by editor “Calthinus” who has a history of anti-Trump editing on Wikipedia articles such as the page on Brett Kavanaugh, a subject of past smear campaigns on the site.
Efforts to downplay the role of Antifa in violent rioting are consistent with past efforts by Antifa supporters on Wikipedia to slant articles in their favor and remove negative information about the far-left group such as their attack on journalist Andy Ngo. Recent administration attention on Antifa over the riots has prompted further moves on Wikipedia’s Antifa page. This has included an attempt by left-wing editors to have any mention of Antifa engaging in physical violence removed from the article’s intro, claiming it is not a common trait of the group.
In one instance, editor “Bastique” posted to Facebook encouraging friends to “fix” the Antifa page. The Facebook post linked a Wikipedia discussion started by Bastique, who claims to be an “anti-liberal leftist” and Lutheran pastor in Berkeley, on removing “militant” as a description of Antifa. Such a request appears to go against Wikipedia guidelines on attempts to rig discussions. One person who responded on Facebook, Wikipedia administrator Guy Chapman, joined the discussion to support removing “militant” as a defining trait of Antifa. Chapman later removed the “militant” label from Antifa’s Wikipedia page himself, suggesting the discussion found “no consensus” for it.
Protests over Floyd’s death and widespread adoption of the “BlackLivesMatter” slogan by corporations have also influenced Wikipedia. Though a proposed “blackout” of Wikipedia in solidarity with the protests was rejected, editors set up a “Black Lives Matter” group dedicated to editing Wikipedia pages on allegations of police brutality and racial discrimination. Members include numerous administrators with special privileges on the site, including Chapman who stated in joining: “You can be one of three things: ally, enemy, or collaborator.” Editor “Wugapodes” launched an “edit-a-thon” for the group claiming its goal was “to improve our articles on topics relating to racism, racialized violence, and the African diaspora more widely.” Wugapodes also approved having the article covering Trump’s comments on looting appear on Wikipedia’s front page.
Wikipedia’s extensive bias regarding the protests over Floyd’s death show why the online encyclopedia has become so notorious for its left-wing bias on political articles that one of its own co-founders has called out the problem. However, despite criticism of this bias, the site continues to be relied on widely by Big Tech as an “arbiter of truth” in the era of hysteria over “fake news” online.
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.