Wikipedia Editors Censor Rayshard Brooks’ Criminal History

Protesters chant outside a Wendy's restaurant on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, in Atlanta after a funeral for Rayshard Brooks was held. Brooks died after being fatally shot by an Atlanta police officer. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore/AP

Wikipedia editors have censored the page about the police-involved shooting of Rayshard Brooks by removing any mention of Brooks’ violent criminal history, despite him violently resisting arrest which precipitated police use of force. Criticism of District Attorney Paul Howard’s decision to charge officer Garrett Rolfe with felony murder has also been removed.

Editors involved in censoring the Wikipedia page openly expressed hostility towards officer Rolfe and support for Brooks. One editor’s profile page contained numerous derogatory and inflammatory images and comments about President Donald Trump and Administration officials.

Since the police-involved death of George Floyd and widespread Black Lives Matter protests and riots in response, Wikipedia editors have been taking steps to slant articles in favor of the movement and its cause. Editors have spun or downplayed the violence and rioting, censored evidence of Antifa involvement, and pushed content favoring a Black Lives Matters agenda onto the front page throughout June and even on July 4. The Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, has leaned into this bias by declaring there is “no neutral stance” on racial justice and endorsing Black Lives Matter.

Within the article on the Atlanta shooting, editors removed details about Brooks having a prior violent history. One editor mentioned a prior conviction Brooks received for domestic violence, reportedly including Brooks twisting his wife’s arm during an argument. Despite citing CNN, deemed reliable on Wikipedia, an editor removed the material insisting it was “irrelevant” and “cherrypicked” information. This left vague mention of Brooks spending two years in prison and having “been married eight years” with three daughters, protecting the favorable protest narrative of Brooks as a family man. By contrast, editors detail a prior reprimand Rolfe received for pointing his gun at a fleeing stolen vehicle.

Editors further censored criticism of District Attorney Paul Howard, who charged Rolfe with felony murder over the Brooks shooting. An editor noted Georgia’s state investigators had an ongoing investigation into the shooting yet were not consulted on the charges, and mentioned criticism of Howard from Georgian politicians and United States House Judiciary Committee minority leader Doug Collins (R-GA), who all accused Howard of using the case to improve his standing in a contentious re-election fight. It was also noted Howard is facing an ethics investigation, his second. Editor “EEng” removed this material making several inaccurate characterizations and denying its significance. Attempts to add similar material were repeatedly undone.

Editors also removed information on DA Howard falsely claiming Officer Brosnan was cooperating against Rolfe. Mention of the two officers providing medical assistance to Brooks after the shooting was removed from the article’s intro by EEng, despite the alleged delay in providing assistance informing the charges against the officers. Details noting criticism of Howard and his failure to consult with Georgia’s state investigators were also included in an article on Atlanta police officers protesting the charges by refusing to respond to calls, but were removed by editor “Neutrality” as “irrelevant” or “off-topic” material.

The additions and removals on the Brooks shooting page have been discussed extensively on the discussion page for the article. During the discussion, a number of opponents to the material have plainly revealed a bias against the officers involved and towards the Black Lives Matter movement’s stance, including one associated with Wikipedia’s Black Lives Matter group. Discussing the exclusion of Brooks having a violent history, EEng highlighted that Brooks was civil with Officers Rolfe and Brosnan prior to resisting arrest and assaulting them. Eventually, EEng encouraged other editors to ignore supporters of including further details about Brooks.

EEng, whose profile page is littered with numerous false and inflammatory attacks on President Trump and his associates, demonstrated the most brazen political bias. One section of his profile displays various images from Nazi Germany with captions suggesting they depict Trump and members of his administration or associated Nazi death camps with Trump’s policies on illegal immigration, mirroring Wikipedia’s listing last year of ICE detention facilities as concentration camps. Further examples include suggesting Trump is a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin and captioning an image of First Lady Melania Trump with a sexual euphemism. The First Lady has been previously subjected to sexually-charged smears on Wikipedia and associated sites.

Such open displays of left-wing or anti-Trump political bias by editors actively slanting articles or discussions are common. Editors openly supporting Antifa, including praising Antifa terrorist Willem van Spronsen’s attack on an ICE detention facility, are regularly active at articles about the violent left-wing group. Administrator Guy Chapman, who initiated the discussion that banned Breitbart as a source and slanted content related to Black Lives Matter, has suggested Trump supporters should be banned as not competent enough to edit Wikipedia and declared in joining Wikipedia’s Black Lives Matter group: “You can be one of three things: ally, enemy, or collaborator.”

Bias on Wikipedia has become serious enough that the site’s co-founder has criticized its increasing left-wing slant and stated Wikipedia’s neutrality policy is dead. This bias includes the increasing blacklisting of conservative sources on Wikipedia as left-wing outlets such as The Guardian are heavily favored. In spite of this, media outlets, scientific literature, and Big Tech, rely on Wikipedia as a reliable source to the point of extensively copying articles uncredited in some cases.

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.

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