After riots over the death of George Floyd in police custody prompted renewed attention to the violent far-left group Antifa, editors on Wikipedia sought to keep out or minimize any mention of Antifa’s involvement in rioting as part of the group’s page on the site. Material about past Antifa violence was also removed and an effort has been made to soften or remove the description of Antifa as a far-left militant group.
Wikipedia editors have further sought to smear Antifa critics such as journalist Andy Ngo, who was viciously attacked by Antifa last year, and prominently accuse conservatives and the Trump Administration of spreading what they call conspiracy theories about the group.
The page on Antifa has been a regular source of friction on the site since it was created around the time of the Unite the Right Rally in 2017, which saw significant Antifa violence. Left-wing editors, including those openly identifying as socialists and Antifa supporters, have repeatedly tried to portray the group as defending others from “fascist” attacks and sought to minimize or avoid mentioning violent aggression from the group. On pages about the Floyd protests and riots, editors have also devoted more attention to dubious claims of far-right involvement in rioting than Antifa’s involvement.
Such downplaying of Antifa’s involvement in rioting has also occurred on the Wikipedia page for the group. This included an attempt to remove mention of Antifa engaging in physical violence from the article’s intro. One editor who previously had an Antifa image on his profile page removed mention of looting in Austin, Texas, which Austin police stated was carried out by individuals from an Antifa group. To justify removing the incident, editors stated it only cited local coverage, though several incidents favorable to Antifa on the page are similarly cited only to local outlets.
Editors have further targeted for removal statements from Attorney General William Barr about the role of Antifa in the riots, including removing a statement from Barr that there was clear organized Antifa activity during the rioting by claiming it was “wishful thinking” on his part with editors arguing the Trump Administration statements were “unreliable” sources. While statements from Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray that there is evidence of Antifa involvement in instigating violence are included, editor “Neutrality” altered material stating Barr and Wray did not provide this evidence and changed it to instead claim as fact that there was no evidence, inconsistent with the cited sources.
Past violence censored from the page was raised as well. Notably, the attack by Antifa terrorist Willem van Spronsen on an ICE detention facility in Tacoma was briefly added, but removed with left-wing editors insisting the attack was not significant or related to Antifa. Spronsen’s self-identification as Antifa in his manifesto was rejected with one editor claiming federal authorities could not be trusted on what Spronsen’s manifesto stated. The editor subsequently removed mention of the manifesto from Wikipedia’s article on the Tacoma attack as well, thus removing from Wikipedia almost entirely the attack’s explicit connection to Antifa.
Though journalist Andy Ngo’s lawsuit against Antifa was added to the Antifa page, the material did not specifically discuss the Portland attack. Editor Davide King, a self-proclaimed anarchist, subsequently edited the material about the lawsuit to disparage Ngo by branding him a “right-wing provocateur” and accusing him of doxing, a favored smear from Antifa supporters on Wikipedia. While Ngo’s suit arose in large part from the violent attack against him last year, editors again rejected including specific mention of it in the article. Wikipedia administrator Guy Chapman even baselessly accused Ngo of provoking the attack.
Chapman’s recent role in slanting the Antifa article was previously raised in Breitbart regarding Wikipedia’s coverage of the Floyd riots. An editor called “Bastique” had encouraged Wikipedia editors on Facebook to help “fix” the page on Antifa by participating in a discussion he started on removing the term “militant” from the description in the intro. Bastique subsequently tagged Chapman along with various others generally sympathetic to Antifa and critical of Trump. Chapman hours later joined Bastique’s discussion and eventually removed the term from the intro. Bastique denied intending to bias the discussion.
After Breitbart reported the incident, one editor confronted Chapman for the apparent violation of “canvassing” rules on the site meant to prevent the rigging of Wikipedia discussions. Chapman equivocated on the matter by suggesting his interest in the discussion was because he previously edited the Antifa page. Editor logs show no evidence of him editing the page prior to the Facebook post. In addition to responding to Bastique’s request and his well-known anti-Trump bias, raised after he got Breitbart banned as a factual source, administrator Chapman also recently joined a “BlackLivesMatter” group on Wikipedia declaring: “You can be one of three things: ally, enemy, or collaborator.”
Following the canvassing dispute, Chapman initiated a formal discussion on removing the “militant” label and description of Antifa as “left-wing” from the intro with discussion currently leaning towards removing or minimizing any militancy or political affiliation. Doug Weller, a former member of Wikipedia’s powerful Arbitration Committee who has also removed mentions of Antifa involvement in the Floyd riots, encouraged using an impending Antifa book as a source seemingly to support minimizing Antifa militancy. The book’s author, Stanislav Vysotsky, previously self-identified as Antifa, suggested any violence against “fascists” is self-defense, and defended the attack on Ngo by claiming he is a “fascist videographer” whose videos identify Antifa activists.
While seeking to exclude or water down negative details about Antifa in the intro, Antifa supporters on Wikipedia have devoted considerable effort to documenting alleged “hoaxes” or “conspiracy theories” about the group. Self-proclaimed anarchist Davide King moved to the intro material claiming “Trump administration officials” and other conservatives were spreading “conspiracy theories” about Antifa. Such material constitutes nearly half of the intro. By contrast, despite statements from Senators and Trump Administration officials, including Barr and Trump himself, editors have refused to include in the intro allegations of Antifa violence constituting terrorism and removed some terrorism allegations from the article entirely. Editors have previously rejected mentioning terrorism in the intro.
Pro-Antifa bias on Wikipedia has affected other articles on the site as well. Editors supporting Antifa, including one who praised Spronsen’s terrorist attack on ICE, have helped smear Trump as advocating a “Neo-Nazi conspiracy theory” and helped smear and ban China critics the Epoch Times. “El C” an administrator whose profile page favorably quotes Lenin and who rigged discussion towards labeling ICE detention facilities as “concentration camps” used his advanced privileges to lock the Antifa page for most users following Trump’s pledge to designate them as terrorists, employing a tool that became common after being used to stop GamerGate sympathizers from addressing Wikipedia’s bias against the anti-corruption movement in gaming.
The political bias on Wikipedia has become so brazen its own co-founder Larry Sanger has come out to criticize its growing leftward tilt. From its tendency to rely on biased sources such as the Guardian as it bans conservative outlets, to its owners declaring “no neutral stance” on racial justice and seeking to worsen the bias by promoting “diversity” through a code of conduct, Wikipedia’s left-wing bias not only harms its readers but those who use news media, academic papers, or Big Tech sites, that rely on the online encyclopedia for “truth” in the so-called “fake news” era.
(Disclosure: The author has previously been involved in disputes on Wikipedia with several of the parties mentioned in the 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.