In a decision last month by Wikipedia’s community, statements in “userboxes” on editor profile pages were no longer allowed if they expressed or implied opposition to gay marriage. Breitbart’s coverage of the decision prompted Christian media and organizations, as well as family groups, to condemn Wikipedia for censoring the views of traditional marriage supporters.
One user who complained about the decision on Wikipedia in response to the coverage in Christian media was mocked and dismissed by the veteran editors on the site.
The decision came last month after an editor proposed deleting one userbox stating: “This user believes marriage is between one man and one woman.” Eventually, deletion was proposed for similar userboxes, badges editors include on their profile pages to give information about themselves. Following a discussion dominated by left-wing editors claiming these statements were “discriminatory” and made Wikipedia unwelcoming to gay editors, the userboxes were deleted. Although partly basing the decision on a policy prohibiting “divisive” content on user profiles, other political userboxes have been retained. One administrator, a user with special privileges on the site, resigned his position and left the site over the outcome saying it went against Wikipedia’s supposedly neutral stance.
Following Breitbart’s report on the decision, LifeSiteNews covered the story quoting extensively from the discussion and noting how some editors also suggested prohibiting userboxes opposing the Black Lives Matter movement. LifeSiteNews is one of numerous conservative media outlets banned from use as a factual source on Wikipedia in recent years, a list including Breitbart News. The Christian Institute in the United Kingdom published its own report on the userbox decision, where it noted criticism from Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger about Wikipedia’s neutrality policy being “dead” due to left-wing bias.
In a comment in Premier Christian News, the Institute’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs, Simon Calvert, stated of the decision: “Until five minutes ago the whole world believed marriage was between a man and a woman. You can’t just delete every reference to that reality.” Noting the religious significance of marriage for Christians, Calvert added, “faithful believers are always going to hold on to the true definition of marriage. They are entitled to be able to explain that belief without being cancelled by keyboard warriors.”
An article in the Christian Post on the userbox deletions elaborated further on Sanger’s criticism, particularly his criticism of Wikipedia’s handling of the article on Jesus Christ, which Sanger described as presenting “a ‘liberal’ academic discussion of Jesus” without noting traditional views. The Christian Post article was subsequently shared widely on Twitter with the Family Research Council in D.C. condemning the move on Wikipedia as “More censorship from Big Tech.”
— Family Research Council (@FRCdc) October 19, 2020
The Family Policy Institute of Washington made similar criticism of the decision stating: “Facebook, Twitter, and even Wikipedia have finally admitted their role in the information wars” later adding “Make no mistake: freedom is at stake.” Related family-oriented organizations posted essentially the same message.
Facebook, Twitter, and even Wikipedia have finally admitted their role in the information wars. We aren’t just fighting against principalities and darkness, but also against the media and Big Tech.
Make no mistake: freedom is at stake. https://t.co/lsk8PB2RAX
— Family Policy Inst. (@FPIW) October 19, 2020
Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum, responded to the story saying, “Such discrimination & censorship driven by an anti-Christian agenda seems to be the norm from such places these days.”
Such discrimination & censorship driven by an anti-Christian agenda seems to be the norm from such places these days. Such can be seen in the mixture of truth, error and anti-Christian propaganda on the entry about me. Wikipedia is not known to be… https://t.co/XwEG3IyUDG
— Ken Ham (@aigkenham) October 21, 2020
Christian Broadcasting Network News, the outlet founded by American religious leader Pat Robertson, published a story on the ban prominently noting in the headline the double-standard of the decision as userboxes supporting gay marriage were not similarly removed. Peter Saunders, CEO of the International Christian Medical & Dental Association, shared on Twitter a mass e-mailed statement from the Coalition for Marriage, a British organization advocating marriage be kept between one man and one woman. Signed by Chairman Colin Hart, the statement harshly criticized Big Tech sites:
Censorship of unfashionable views is becoming a big problem on the internet. Increasingly, companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia are misusing concepts like discrimination and hate speech to censor people who disagree with the establishment line on issues such as same-sex marriage.
Noting the ban on Wikipedia as the latest example, the statement summarized Breitbart’s coverage of the story, including the Wikimedia Foundation that owns Wikipedia proposing a “code of conduct” requiring users to use “preferred pronouns” when addressing other users. It concluded: “The tragedy is that such initiatives, in their aim of being inclusive, fail to see or be concerned by the risk of creating a hostile environment for people of unfashionable opinions. The worry is that it will become very hostile indeed.”
Attention from Christian media spurred one individual to post to Wikipedia’s “Help Desk” promising to never donate to the site again arguing the site “has no business censoring any content, particularly that which is an opinion held by more than half of the country.” While some editors corrected the individual’s suggestion people would be banned for merely supporting traditional marriage by noting they only prohibited userboxes expressing the view, others were mocking and dismissive. One user whose entire profile page is a Black Lives Matter activist message quipped, “I’m sure we’ll survive.” An administrator responding to the post remarked, “it’s always the right-wing conservatives who get their knickers in a twist over something Wikipedia has done.”
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.