Wikipedia Claims ‘Attempted Coup’ at Capitol Was a Result of GamerGate

Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. - Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP) (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images

Earlier this year, the Wikipedia page on GamerGate, the anti-corruption movement in gaming, saw extensive updates about the “legacy” of the movement and associated controversies. These edits pushed claims that GamerGate, which Wikipedia labels a “harassment campaign” due to a years-long effort by left-wing editors, helped Donald Trump become President in 2016 and that the movement even contributed to what the page called an “attempted coup” at the Capitol on January 6.

Aside from the expansion of the “legacy” section, editors also gutted many details from the page that might generate sympathy or support for the movement, such as noting various death threats and bomb threats made against its supporters.

GamerGate began in August 2014 over allegations of corrupt practices involving left-wing video game journalists and developers. Some prominent developers and journalists criticized were women and thus the GamerGate movement challenging the corruption was branded a “misogynistic harassment campaign” by media wanting to discredit allegations of unethical journalistic conduct. Wikipedia editors actively slanted pages about GamerGate to push this smear. This author initiated a proceeding before Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee, often likened to a Supreme Court, which saw several opponents of GamerGate banned from the page for their biased editing. Media subsequently spread a fake news story claiming Wikipedia had “purged feminists” who were “provoked” by “throw-away” accounts.

Battles over the GamerGate page and its related pages have continued in the subsequent years with many left-wing editors, now emboldened by the viral media deception about the dispute, still able to edit about the topic and backed by various administrators who used their special privileges to favor opponents of GamerGate. Among those involved in slanting the page against GamerGate were accounts created solely to edit about the movement who were further aided by newly-devised measures that sought to severely restrict access to GamerGate-related pages for new editors, particularly those sympathetic to the movement. This slanting has even meant the page now repeats demonstrably false claims about the movement’s origins.

One recent effort to further slant the GamerGate page towards a left-wing bias has been the addition of a “legacy” section focusing on the supposed impact of the anti-corruption movement and associated controversies. First added by editor “Nice Stories” last year, the section initially repeated claims from left-wing journalists that GamerGate served as a “template” for “harassment campaigns” looking to “construct their own false realities and foist them on others.” The section also faulted social media for not cracking down harder on the movement, a common refrain the left uses to pressure Big Tech into increasing censorship. While the section was trimmed down, its essence remained.

The GamerGate “legacy” section saw further expansion early this year after the January 6 storming of the Capitol by protestors demanding an examination of vote-rigging allegations in the 2020 Presidential election. Editor Nice Stories added to the section claims that GamerGate contributed to Trump’s election as President in 2016 and included a characterization of Trump as “The Gamergate of Republican politics” as well. Also added was a lengthy quote from game developer Brianna Wu, who claims to have been harassed by GamerGate, alleging that the supposed failure of law enforcement and Big Tech to suppress the anti-corruption movement allowed a “violent insurrection” at the Capitol on January 6.

When one editor attempted to remove the quote from Wu by arguing the Capitol storming was not really related to GamerGate and that Wu’s comments were thus too tangential to mention, the material was restored with editor “Aquillion” stating the material was fine as it mentioned GamerGate and was covered in a source considered “reliable” on Wikipedia. Aquillion subsequently added a line citing CNN accusing “key figures in Gamergate” of stirring up hostilities ahead of the Capitol storming. The material added further called the storming an “attempted coup” and treated the characterization as fact, even though Wikipedia’s own article on the event avoids the term save including the page in several “coup” categories.

Several other additions to the section sought to tie GamerGate to Trump, including trying to disparage Breitbart News favorably covering the movement by suggesting it was a scheme to help Trump, despite GamerGate beginning over a year before Trump announced his run for office. In these and other expansions, such as one providing a lengthy quote from Anita Sarkeesian who is another claimed “victim” of GamerGate, editors relied on partisan left-wing outlets such as Vox, Slate, and the Guardian with the latter having been one outlet that spread fake news about the Wikipedia dispute. The Guardian later had to retract some claims, though remains the third most-cited news source on Wikipedia.

Changes slanting the GamerGate page this year also went further than the “legacy” section as Aquillion began gradually removing numerous details favorable to the anti-corruption movement. One detail removed concerned Breitbart’s revelation of the GameJournoPros mailing list where it was found journalists at supposedly competing outlets were heavily pressuring colleagues into not covering the initial corruption scandal that sparked the movement. Although Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales had himself argued the mailing list’s exposure validated the GamerGate movement’s allegations of collusion, Aquillion claimed the revelation “amounted to nothing” and received little coverage.

Going even further, Aquillion removed a paragraph on bomb threats made to GamerGate-related events that forced their evacuation, in one case shutting down a journalistic conference where GamerGate’s ethics concerns were being discussed, by insisting that even having a single paragraph gave “undue weight” to the events. Also removed was a paragraph on various instances of harassment targeting people sympathetic to GamerGate. Despite the paragraph citing sources such as the Washington Post, BBC, and Vice, Aquillion suggested it was mainly citing “lower-quality” or “tangential sources” for the material.

The effect of these removals was to erase from the article all mention of people sympathetic to the GamerGate movement being harassed. Such arguments for excluding content favorable to GamerGate conflict with the justifications given for including many negative details in the “legacy” section on the page, demonstrating how Wikipedia editors often exploit policies on “verifiability” and sourcing by picking and choosing when and how policies apply depending on whether it favors a given ideological position.

Wikipedia’s slanted portrayal of GamerGate does not just affect how the site’s readers understand the movement and its associated controversies. As Breitbart reported in 2019, numerous media outlets and even academic textbooks have copied Wikipedia’s framing of GamerGate, sometimes extensively and usually without acknowledging Wikipedia as the source. The powerful influence of Wikipedia has been confirmed by studies showing it helps shape scientific literature and economic decisions with the dangers further made clear by the site’s role in spreading hoaxes. Despite this and studies and analyses finding the site exhibits a left-wing bias, Big Tech has incorporated Wikipedia into its efforts against “fake news” online.

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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