Wikipedia’s In-House Newsletter Defends Conservative Media Purge, Claims Site Is ‘Center-Right’

Turkish officials say Wikipedia failed to remove content deemed to be false from its pages that linked Turkey with terror groups
AFP/Lionel Bonaventure

In an article published Sunday in the Signpost, Wikipedia’s in-house newsletter, one editor involved in purging conservative media from the site responded to an article in British magazine the Critic, which analyzed left-wing bias on the site and suggested this purge was one result. The Signpost writer defended the process by claiming conservative media is generally less reliable. He further claimed Wikipedia was “center-right” citing a study relying on the political affiliation of people linking to sites on social media.

Comments on the piece from one user refuted the Signpost article’s main claim by noting many left-wing outlets deemed unreliable by outside sources were not similarly banned on Wikipedia. Purging of conservative media has continued with Newsmax’s recent ban following its rise in popularity due to its coverage of the disputed 2020 election.

The op-ed piece titled “Re-righting Wikipedia” was authored by editor “Newslinger” for the November issue of the Signpost. A newsletter subscribed to by over a thousand Wikipedia editors, the Signpost regularly presents community views regarding outside criticism of the site. Newslinger has been responsible for getting several conservative outlets “deprecated” on Wikipedia, the process by which sources are banned from use for factual claims. This includes the Epoch Times, Zero Hedge, and the Daily Caller. Due to the Daily Caller’s ban, Wikipedia could not cite its verification of e-mails concerning Biden family corruption allegations reported by the New York Post, itself deemed unreliable following a ban attempt.

Newslinger suggested criticism of Wikipedia’s sourcing bans demonstrating a left-wing bias were not credible by pointing to ban responses from Gateway Pundit’s owner and Breitbart’s editor-in-chief criticizing Wikipedia’s left-wing bias and contrasting them with criticisms of right-wing bias from MintPress News and Grayzone, left-wing outlets banned in the same process. However, the latter outlets focused on political views related to countries outside the United States, rather than American political views. Wikipedia editors who supported banning those outlets were generally left-wing themselves, with several criticizing the outlets for alleged ties to Russia, in keeping with the anti-Donald Trump Russiagate narrative.

Relying on this claim of equivalent responses from banned sources, Newslinger responded to the Critic analysis criticizing Wikipedia as banning more conservative sources than left-wing ones by arguing this was simply due to conservative sources being less “reliable” overall. Using the Media Bias Chart by Ad Fontes also used in the Critic analysis, Newslinger noted that several conservative outlets have not been banned despite being more popular than the left-wing AlterNet, which has only been deemed unreliable rather than outright banned.

In the comment sections of the piece, one user retorted that banned conservative outlets Breitbart and the Daily Mail, whose ban sparked off the conservative media purge, were rated by the Media Bias Chart as more reliable than AlterNet. Citing this fact as more indicative of bias, a subsequent comment noted feminist outlet Jezebel and others had avoided bans despite being rated less reliable than prominent banned conservative outlets. Another user claimed this was because Jezebel was mainly cited for opinion, though Jezebel is currently cited for factual claims on articles regarding abortion, sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, and Gary Johnson’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Further arguing against Wikipedia’s purging of conservative media being a sign of bias, Newslinger cited a Berkman Klein study, which categorized Wikipedia as a “center-right” source. The study’s categorizations were based on what sources were linked more on social media by people who shared posts from Trump and Hillary Clinton respectively during the 2016 election. As Trump supporters cited Wikipedia more, this got the site categorized as more right-wing. However, one study suggests lower-educated individuals are more likely to trust and cite Wikipedia than higher-educated individuals, so Trump’s popularity among voters with less formal education is the likely reason more Trump supporters linked to the site.

Berkman Klein’s study itself is an example of this tendency. As noted in two articles linked in Gateway Pundit’s response to its Wikipedia ban cited by Newslinger at the top of the op-ed, Berkman Klein’s study includes a negative quote about Gateway Pundit ripped from Wikipedia and falsely cited to Politico. This suggests that while the lower-educated are more likely to cite Wikipedia, the higher-educated may be more likely to plagiarize it. Such actions are consistent with studies showing Wikipedia shapes scientific literature and Breitbart’s reporting showing media outlets and academic textbooks extensively copied uncredited from Wikipedia’s biased page on the GamerGate anti-corruption movement.

Unlike what the Berkman Klein study claims, numerous studies and analyses have demonstrated Wikipedia has a left-wing bias. Aside from the Critic’s analysis showing right-leaning editors were six times more likely to be sanctioned, studies have demonstrated Wikipedia’s content and editors are generally left-wing. Analyses of Wikipedia sourcing show the top news sources cited on Wikipedia are mostly left-wing with articles on American politicians mostly citing left-wing sources. Several editors also questioned the Berkman Klein’s study characterizing Wikipedia as center-right, even suggesting the site being left-wing was a positive matter.

Arguing for “re-righting America” in the piece’s conclusion, Newslinger suggested the problem is Americans favoring less “reliable” right-wing sources, pointing to viewers switching from Fox News to Newsmax over coverage of the disputed 2020 election. Newsmax was banned following its popularity boost, but Fox was itself earlier this year discouraged as a source for political content. One author of the Berkman Klein study Newslinger linked was even cited then to argue for banning Fox. Some editors have floated launching another effort at banning Fox News, citing reported reluctance to call former Vice President Joe Biden “President-elect” despite him not yet being officially chosen by the Electoral College.

Other than studies and analyses, Wikipedia’s own co-founder criticized the site for its left-wing bias. Editors on the site have edited Wikipedia in support of the violent far-left Antifa group, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Biden campaign. Its purging of conservative media has been cited by the site’s owners and corporate media as proving Wikipedia’s effectiveness against “fake news” online, a narrative consistent with anti-Trump media coverage and following advice from a public relations firm tied to the Clinton Foundation. That narrative has led to Wikipedia being widely relied on by Big Tech.

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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