Guy Chapman, a Wikipedia administrator with special site privileges, was criticized late last year for banning an Antifa opponent from editing the far-left group’s page. Editors cited Chapman’s pro-Antifa stance as conflicting with policies against administrators using privileges when involved in disputes. Chapman subsequently resigned citing unrelated stress over disputes about the 2020 election results. This month in posts about pro-Donald Trump protestors storming the Capitol over election fraud allegations, Chapman claimed Breitbart News’ coverage of Wikipedia has undermined faith in the online encyclopedia.
The editor banned from the Antifa page also worked against editors scrubbing negative information from the Wikipedia page about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). After Chapman banned the editor from Antifa’s page, others cited those actions among others and imposed a total ban on the editor from articles about American politics. Since then, editors have continued slanting the Antifa page in favor of the group.
Articles related to Antifa on Wikipedia have frequently been slanted in favor of the violent far-left group, particularly to minimize mention of their violence and extreme views, including characterizations of their activities as terrorism. Editors have censored mention of more extreme acts of violence, such as the vicious assault on journalist Andy Ngo and the Antifa terrorist attack on a Tacoma ICE detention facility. They have also smeared critics such as Ngo and Fox News host Tucker Carlson, even rationalizing an attack on Carlson’s home. Involvement of Antifa in Black Lives Matter-related riots was also suppressed, including the Antifa murder of a Trump supporter.
In mid-November, self-identified anarchist editor Davide King attempted to significantly expand the Antifa page with various quotes rationalizing and minimizing the far-left group’s violence, even suggesting it was “self-defense” on the grounds that “far-right” speech is violence. After these additions were removed, user “Wikieditor19920” edited the page to remove other material from the article’s introduction that minimized or rationalized Antifa violence, such as material only citing “milk-shaking” as an example of violence. King subsequently undid Wikieditor’s changes with Wikieditor trying repeatedly to make the introduction less defensive of Antifa, but King and self-identified socialist and “anti-fascist” editor “Bacondrum” also undid those changes.
Discussion about Wikieditor’s changes was contentious even as each change was adjusted based on objections from Antifa supporters. Several particularly objected to describing scholars writing favorably of Antifa as “liberal” with King stating they “are by no means ‘liberal’ scholars” and accusing Wikieditor of pushing a bias with that description. While one scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies was not clearly political, all others cited displayed a clear left-wing bias. One scholar, Mark Bray, has repeatedly promoted Antifa actions on Twitter.
Wikieditor previously fought with Antifa supporters, particularly Bacondrum, over Ngo’s page. After the self-identified socialist and “anti-fascist” added claims to the introduction of Ngo’s page accusing him of “colluding” with “far-right street gangs” and “helping plan an armed attack” on Antifa, Wikieditor undid the edits as defamatory and noted the extreme characterizations were not supported by the sources. Bacondrum subsequently reported Wikieditor for “bludgeoning” discussion about Ngo’s article, mostly citing an earlier discussion about calling Ngo a journalist, a discussion which upheld Wikieditor’s position and his objection that opposing positions were not well-sourced.
Despite Wikieditor noting Bacondrum’s biased editing and repeated attacks against Ngo on the discussion page, attacks which violated Wikipedia policies, no action was taken against Bacondrum and Wikieditor was instead warned and threatened with sanctions. After Bacondrum repeatedly added quotes smearing Ngo and removing material clarifying details of a controversy involving him, Wikieditor reported Bacondrum and both were temporarily banned from Ngo’s article. One month later, when Wikieditor reported Bacondrum for pushing a pro-Antifa slant at the Antifa page, Bacondrum accused Wikieditor of pushing the opposite slant. Chapman consequently banned Wikieditor, and only Wikieditor, from Antifa’s page.
Chapman subsequently suggested even stricter sanctions at a noticeboard for administrators, such as banning Wikieditor from all political articles. Though Chapman did suggest possible sanctions for Bacondrum, he did not impose any himself. Wikieditor objected to Chapman’s action in the discussion, noting comments Chapman made a month earlier at the discussion page for Ngo’s article where Chapman called Ngo a “grifter” and accused him of “apologia for neo-Nazis” in comments Wikieditor stated violated policies on claims about living people. Back when Wikieditor first criticized the comments, Chapman responded by implicitly accusing him of Islamophobia.
In the discussion about Chapman banning Wikieditor from the Antifa page, one editor questioned whether Chapman should have taken action against Wikieditor given his involvement in American politics articles and site policies against administrators using their privileges when involved in disputes. Chapman rejected the claim by stating he was not specifically involved in the Antifa page. Within half an hour, Chapman resigned from his position as an administrator.
Numerous editors argued Chapman’s banning of Wikieditor from the Antifa page was an abuse of his privileges and his resignation should therefore be “under a cloud” thus requiring him to get community approval for regaining his privileges. Left-wing administrator “MastCell” insisted Chapman’s action was not in violation and suggested he would be free to regain his administrator status should he eventually request his position back as is common with uncontroversial resignations. Chapman himself indicated this was his intent as he attributed his conveniently-timed resignation to stress and “PTSD” over Trump disputing the 2020 Presidential election results.
Questions about Chapman’s use of his administrative position were not unwarranted. Despite Chapman’s claim, he has been heavily involved in disputes about Antifa. Chapman first became involved after a pro-Antifa editor, in apparent violation of policies on manipulating Wikipedia discussions, requested on Facebook that fellow Wikipedia editors post in a discussion he started on removing description of Antifa as “militant” and Chapman was tagged for his assistance. He subsequently removed the “militant” label and initiated a discussion dominated by Antifa supporters affirming that removal. When confronted, Chapman claimed he edited the Antifa page well before the Facebook discussion, which was demonstrably false.
Aside from participating in the “militant” label discussion, Chapman also smeared Ngo as “provoking” Antifa into assaulting him and labeled Trump supporter Aaron Danielson a “fascist” when arguing his murder by Antifa member and Black Lives Matter supporter Michael Reinoehl should go unmentioned. Such bias coincided with Chapman joining a Black Lives Matter group on Wikipedia stating: “You can be one of three things: ally, enemy, or collaborator.” Chapman showed greater bias on Facebook as he joked about Trump being shot, celebrated a Trump supporter’s death, and wished Attorney General Bill Barr would catch coronavirus. He also repeatedly mocked concerns about Antifa.
Political bias is not a new concern regarding Chapman. In 2018, he initiated the discussion that banned Breitbart as a source for factual claims on Wikipedia, falsely claiming Breitbart “admitted” publishing fake news. Breitbart’s ban marked an acceleration in the purging of conservative media on Wikipedia. After the ban Chapman helped remove nearly all Breitbart links, even where links were allowed. When some removals were undone, he added Breitbart to a spam list to block all links, which some editors argued violated the policies on administrators using their privileges when involved in a dispute. Chapman previously abused the spam list to advance his agenda.
Breitbart’s coverage of the ban created further controversy for Chapman by mentioning his profile page called for banning Trump supporters from Wikipedia. He argued supporting Trump meant they were too incompetent to edit. Editors argued this was a polemical attack on editors prohibited by policy and called for action against him by the Arbitration Committee, often likened to a Supreme Court on Wikipedia. The Committee ultimately declined action. In declining, several noted Chapman was too involved in American political topics to use his administrative privileges under policy and relied on Chapman’s commitment to avoid the area.
Discussing Chapman’s suggestion for further sanctions on Wikieditor, editors raised disputes on other political articles and proposed banning him from Wikipedia entirely. These disputes included Wikieditor objecting to a partisan editor closing down discussion about others censoring mention of Democratic Socialists of America members reciting a chant interpreted as calling for Israel’s destruction. Comments Wikieditor made about editors scrubbing antisemitism allegations against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from her page’s introduction were also cited. Wikieditor had actively worked to keep mentioning the allegations. Eventually, the discussion concluded with Wikieditor banned indefinitely from American politics articles. Despite suggesting the ban himself, Chapman claimed surprise and denied wanting such a sanction.
Following Wikieditor’s ban, Antifa supporters began working to further add information defending Antifa tactics. King repeatedly added statements from Bray defending Antifa’s use of doxing and also added statements from Peter Beinart, former editor of the left-wing New Republic, quoting an Antifa blog claiming many in the mainstream left came to see Antifa as being “right all along.” While other statements were kept, a prolonged fight over the Antifa blog quote ended with its removal.
Beginning of this year, statements by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) calling out Antifa violence were repeatedly removed by Antifa supporters as well as statements pledging harsher action against Antifa violence in the city. Some material was removed partly for citing Fox News, which editors had formally discouraged as a political source. Editors also expanded the section on “hoaxes and conspiracy theories” with material about the storming of the Capitol. The material characterized alleged Antifa involvement in the resulting violence as “false” then listed people raising the prospect, while suggesting the conservative Proud Boys group sought to frame Antifa. One Antifa group’s founder was indeed arrested for storming the Capitol and encouraging violence.
Returning from his temporary absence, Chapman went on a tirade about the Capitol storming. Blaming conservative media in general, Chapman claimed they rewarded “ideological purity over factual accuracy” before reciting a litany of left-wing media talking points and attacking Republicans who called for investigating allegations of voter fraud. He specifically attacked Breitbart News by claiming its Wikipedia coverage “spread enough lies” that conservatives did not trust Wikipedia’s dismissal of fraud allegations. Unsubstantiated attacks on Breitbart’s Wikipedia criticism have previously been used to threaten sanctions against editors citing Breitbart coverage of matters such as conservative documentary filmmaker Lauren Southern sending a defamation complaint to Wikipedia’s owners.
Unlike the neutral stance he claimed, Chapman regularly advances baseless attacks on right-wing figures. After his remarks about the Capitol storming, Chapman accused Turning Point USA head Charlie Kirk of “inciting the insurrection” citing a screen-cap of Kirk tweeting about busing in students for the Trump rally that preceded the Capitol protests. Last year, as editors sought to suppress or discredit allegations of Biden family corruption, Chapman baselessly accused Rudy Giuliani of obtaining evidence from Russian intelligence and claiming the allegations were all a “Kremlin disinformation operation” to shut down discussion on mentioning them.
Chapman has frequently been involved in advancing a left-wing or anti-Trump agenda on Wikipedia, such as framing reports of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election as “conspiracy theories” during President Trump’s first impeachment. He also supported a heavily-criticized ban on expressing support for traditional marriage, remarking that he hoped it would drive away gay marriage opponents, and even called for banning statements such as “all lives matter” and “blues lives matter” from profile pages. Biased administrators such as Chapman have been cited as one explanation for the left-wing bias on Wikipedia criticized by the site’s own co-founder and identified in numerous studies and analyses.
(Disclosure: The author has previously been involved in disputes on Wikipedia with some parties referenced in this 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.