Documentary filmmaker Lauren Southern has submitted a defamation complaint to Wikipedia in response to a long-running smear campaign against her on the online encyclopedia by the site’s left-wing editors. Southern’s past activities have been misrepresented or taken out of context, such as details regarding her ban from entering the U.K. over prior political speech and her speaking events in Australia and New Zealand, which were subject to repeated cancellations following activist pressure campaigns. As Southern explains, “I don’t even recognize the individual they call ‘Lauren Southern’ on Wikipedia.”
According to Southern, the smears on Wikipedia have also made her documentary work more difficult as an interview subject for her latest film regarding police and Black Lives Matter almost ended his involvement after reading her page on the site and lawyers have refused to work with her.
Wikipedia’s page on Southern has been viewed over 400,000 times in the current year and millions of times since being created. Hundreds of editors made thousands of edits in that time. Despite considerable attention, Southern contends the page unfairly damages her reputation. A review bears out her criticism as the page shows numerous examples of bias, misrepresentation, and outright fabrication, all disparaging towards Southern. Because of these smears, on Saturday Southern sent the site’s Volunteer Response Team and the legal team of the Wikimedia Foundation a complaint about defamation on the page.
In the complaint, Southern stated the page had “only gotten more defamatory in the last few months.” She mentioned attempting to speak to the response team in prior e-mails and to regular editors on the article’s discussion page. However, Southern stated “these actions have proven to be a waste of time, so I am currently in discussions with legal representation” yet expressed hope the issues “can be resolved before any legal action is taken.”
Prior to sending the complaint, Southern did attempt to address some of the issues by going to her article’s discussion page and mentioning problems on social media. On Twitter, she mentioned the article including an outdated statement that she was not a Christian, though she has since become one. A user updated this detail citing a more recent interview. Though her Christianity was mentioned in a recent Atlantic piece, editors only added other details from a related documentary. While her Twitter comments had some positive effect, engaging on Wikipedia itself was less successful. Although negatively-slanted material in the introduction was briefly removed, it was eventually restored by editor “Grayfell” who is responsible for many negative details on Southern’s page.
Southern stated in her complaint that if the issues on her page are not addressed, then the next letter would be from her lawyers and “will be pursuing both Wikimedia and the editors involved in these violations.” A reply from a volunteer simply encouraged her to continue participating on her article’s discussion page. Foundation lawyers have not yet responded to Southern’s complaint. This author reviewed Southern’s page at her request and the complaint incorporates findings from that review. No compensation was provided to this author for reviewing the page.
Regarding her article’s issues, Southern stated: “I don’t even recognize the individual they call ‘Lauren Southern’ on Wikipedia.” She stated that when allowed to talk to people influenced by Wikipedia she has been able to persuade them the page was inaccurate, remarking that this had become increasingly easier due to her belief Wikipedia’s reputation has significantly declined in recent years because of its broader left-wing bias, evidenced from numerous studies and analyses of the site and criticized this year by the site’s co-founder. However, Southern added this does not diminish the harm the site causes those subjected to Wikipedia smear campaigns.
One reason Southern gave Breitbart News for considering legal action against Wikipedia was that inflammatory and inaccurate content on her page created problems for her Crossfire documentary on alleged police misconduct and the Black Lives Matter movement, including the associated riots this Summer. According to Southern, one interview subject nearly canceled after seeing her Wikipedia page. She also stated several lawyers refused to work with her on other matters because of the claims on Wikipedia.
Southern identified one issue as the second sentence in her Wikipedia page’s introduction, which stated she “has been described as alt-right and a white nationalist.” Partisan left-wing outlets, such as Vice News, were cited for the claim. Although Southern rejects both labels, this was only mentioned later in her article. Furthermore, an editor recently added Southern to a category for “white nationalists” as well, in apparent violation of Wikipedia policies requiring labels be commonly used in sources considered reliable on the site.
When Southern questioned these labels on the article’s discussion page, editors opened a formal discussion about them, which has been overwhelmed by left-wing editors supporting them remaining. Several editors even suggested the labels be presented as fact rather than allegations from others. Administrator Molly White, who edits as “GorillaWarfare” on Wikipedia, further accused Southern of believing in “white supremacy” during the discussion without citing any source.
Self-identified socialist editor “Bacondrum” removed the attribution of the labels, leaving the article claiming as fact that Southern is a “white nationalist” despite the discussion still being ongoing. Bacondrum identifies himself as “anti-fascist” and has been active on articles about the far-left group Antifa and Antifa critic Andy Ngo, who he has smeared in comments on the discussion page for Ngo’s article as well as repeatedly adding smears to Ngo’s page itself. Ngo has long been targeted by Antifa supporters on the site. An editor subsequently undid this change to Southern’s page and even mentioned her rejection of the labels in the introduction, but White and Bacondrum restored the changes stating the labels as fact. Mention of her rejecting the labels was, however, eventually re-added.
Few sources actually describe Southern as “white nationalist” with many referring to her as part of the “alt-light” who reject the racism now associated with the alt-right, but favor civic nationalism and oppose mass-immigration. Even several Vice articles use “alt-light” to describe Southern. “Alt-light” is never mentioned on Southern’s page.
Another contentious claim in the second paragraph of Southern’s page states she is “known for” promoting and helped popularize “the Great Replacement conspiracy theory” alleging mass-immigration and other “diversity” policies will eventually erase white Europeans, which the article labels a “white supremacist” theory, even though the cited sources do not label it one. A YouTube video Southern uploaded discussing the idea and media reports that rising migrant populations could make white Europeans minorities in Europe serves as the allegation’s basis. However, sources merely note Southern’s video received hundreds of thousands of views. Few outlets gave her mention of the concept significant attention.
The article body goes further linking the concept to “white genocide” claims citing news articles discussing the concept. Yet one cited article does not mention Southern, inconsistent with Wikipedia policies on original research. Attempts to remove this material have been rejected. Other material ties Southern to a broader “white genocide conspiracy theory” over her Farmlands documentary regarding attacks on white South African farmers, including more claims citing outlets not mentioning Southern. Figures discussing the attacks, including Southern, were previously included in a “white genocide conspiracy theory” advocates list, then called a “neo-Nazi” theory on the page and included President Donald Trump as one “advocate” for discussing farm attacks.
Regarding an incident where Southern and other activists were banned from entering the United Kingdom, the article only cites it being tied to the “Terrorism Act” due to “her intentions during her visit” without further clarification, though Southern indicated it was due to her non-violent political speech. One instance mentioned was a prior U.K. visit where she and others handed out fliers stating “Allah is a gay God” before British authorities shut down their efforts. Southern’s action was a response to an article suggesting Jesus was gay and intended to show disparate treatment of Islam and Christianity.
While that incident is included on Wikipedia right before discussing her entry ban, its relevance to the ban, and its context as a response to portrayals of Christ is not. However, this context is included in the cited BBC article and in Pink News, which was recently affirmed by editors as reliable by Wikipedia standards. Southern and others expressed concerns about the entry ban and its potential implications for free speech in the country. No mention of these concerns is included in the article, despite them being mentioned in the cited sources.
Lack of context is a recurring problem on Southern’s page. The introduction’s mention of her confronting non-governmental organizations conducting search-and-rescue operations omits concerns of Southern and others that the missions are used to facilitate illegal migration by bringing migrants to European ports or Southern’s view that blocking such operations would discourage life-endangering European migration efforts. Her views were subsequently vindicated when heavier migration restrictions by Italy brought a significant drop in deaths at sea. Content on Southern’s page regarding a 2017 Berkeley rally mentions violence erupting with left-wing groups, but not that the rally itself was protesting left-wing groups violently suppressing free speech.
More egregiously taken out of context was a statement Southern made during an Australia speaking tour referencing Sodom and Gomorrah, cities destroyed by God in the Bible over their rampant sin, and joked Melbourne wouldn’t be “nuked just yet” as there were still good people in the city. One editor added a heavily-distorted description claiming she “called for the country to be bombed” only to later add this was a joke blaming the cited source as misrepresenting it. No further clarification was given nor the Biblical nature of the reference mentioned, instead leaving the misleading claim Southern joked about bombing a city.
Context was also stripped from Southern’s Wikipedia page regarding a New Zealand speaking event with libertarian philosopher Stefan Molyneux. Originally covered in a lengthy section, it was significantly trimmed by Grayfell claiming too much detail. Grayfell’s removals included all properly-sourced mention of threats and harassment getting the event shut down, criticism the cancellation received, and supportive statements, leaving attacks on Southern and Molyneux unchallenged. Grayfell was also responsible for adding slanted material to Southern’s page, such as the “Great Replacement” material, including claims not supported by the cited sources.
Grayfell is the top contributor to Southern’s page, restoring many slanted negative details added by others, including claims citing highly partisan left-wing outlets. Aside from Southern’s page, Grayfell was one of many editors defending and supporting Antifa, having removed all mention of violence from Antifa’s Wikipedia page shortly after it was created in 2017. He has also aided smear campaigns against Breitbart News, Gateway Pundit, and free speech Twitter alternative Gab. These smear efforts included restoring Trump to the “white genocide conspiracy theory” advocates list where Southern was included.
Southern’s criticism of feminism is another area where editors omitted important context. Noting her protest at a feminist “SlutWalk” in Canada, the Wikipedia article refers to her stating “There is no rape culture in the West.” However, none of the nuance in her position is reflected on Wikipedia, despite being present in the cited source where she addresses how Western attitudes on rape are extremely hostile towards it and protective of women. The material was originally added by editor “Carpatho” who was later banned for using multiple accounts to smear conservatives.
Editors also sought to tarnish Southern by association. One editor, who mostly added negatively slanted material about Southern, claimed she “defended” alt-right leader Richard Spencer, because Southern stated Spencer was a white nationalist rather than a white supremacist. One cited source of the few making the claim, the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center, also used “white nationalist” to describe Spencer. Inflammatory details about Spencer’s views were similarly included, despite only being mentioned in one cited source, a local news outlet. Another editor labeled Spencer a “neo-Nazi” despite no source on Southern’s page using the label (the label was seriously contested on Spencer’s own page even among left-wing editors arguing whether there was sufficient sourcing).
Many conservative figures have been subjected to smear campaigns by the site’s left-wing editors same as Southern. Fox News host Mark Levin has been subjected to a multi-year smear campaign since being attributed as the source for claims President Trump made about his campaign being spied on by the Obama Administration, claims subsequently validated by the Department of Justice Inspector General. Black conservative Candace Owens was also subjected to a smear campaign, along with Fox host Tucker Carlson. President Trump himself has been subjected to repeated smear campaigns.
These campaigns often lead to smears being repeated by media outlets, which have even published hoaxes originating on the online encyclopedia. In addition to the media, Big Tech and academia also rely on Wikipedia to counter “fake news” in a message praised by corporate media and originally suggested to the site’s owners by a public relations firm tied to the Clinton Foundation citing the 2016 election.
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.