- Online encyclopedia that is currently the largest and most popular general-reference database on the Internet
- Claims to be a forum whose hallmarks are “verifiability” and a “neutral point of view,” but its leftist political bias is pervasive and demonstrable
Created by Internet entrepreneur Jimmy Wales and philosophy PhD Larry Sanger, Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that is currently the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet. Its name is a composite of the words “wiki” (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning “quick”) and “encyclopedia.” As of June 2012, Wikipedia contained 22 million articles in 285 different languages (including more than 3.9 million articles in English alone), and had approximately 100,000 regularly active contributors. The Internet analysis firm Alexa ranks Wikipedia as the sixth most popular website on earth, which means that it stands with Google, Amazon, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook as one of the foundational bases for the organization and distribution of information on the Internet today.
Wikipedia began as a complementary project for Nupedia, a free online English-language encyclopedia whose articles were written by experts and reviewed under a formal process. Founded under the ownership of the web portal company Bomis, Inc. on March 9, 2000, Nupedia’s two major figures were its editor-in-chief, Larry Sanger, and the CEO of Bomis, Jimmy Wales. On January 10, 2001, Sanger proposed to create a wiki as a “feeder” project for Nupedia. Five days later, Wikipedia was formally launched as a single, English-language edition.
Because Wikipedia is largely open—except for particularly sensitive and/or vandalism-prone pages, which are “protected” from editing to some degree—anyone with Internet access can write or edit the text of any entry on the website as they see fit; they can do this anonymously, under a pseudonym, or with their real identity. Different language editions modify this policy; for example, only registered users may create a new article in the English edition.
Though Wikipedia claims that its goal is to present information in a forum whose hallmarks are “verifiability” and a “neutral point of view,” its overall leftist bias is pervasive and demonstrable. Consider, for instance:
- Fully 35.6% of conservative author Ann Coulter’s Wikipedia entry is devoted to “Controversies and Criticism”—in which a series of Coulter quotes are cited with accompanying condemnations, primarily from her opponents on the left. By contrast, a mere 4.5% of leftist filmmaker Michael Moore‘s entry deals with negative or controversial information.
- The same disproportion exists in the Wikipedia entries of the former flagship stars of Fox News and MSNBC, conservative Glenn Beck and leftist Keith Olbermann. Twenty-three percent of Beck’s entry is critical of its subject, versus just 5% of Olbermann’s.
- The leftist icon Noam Chomsky has perhaps the most detailed and respectful Wikipedia entries of any political commentator in the world. Moreover, his page has an unusually high level of protection: a lock logo advising readers that the profile cannot be edited by unregistered or new users.
- The left-wing slant in entries for people who are deceased is less marked and generally more subtle. But even here, strong bias occasionally intrudes. For example, the 12,707-word Wikipedia entry for the late Che Guevara, Fidel Castro‘s bloodthirsty henchman of the 1960s, includes only a single, 235-word paragraph (1.8%) of criticism. Deliberately barred from the entry is any reference to the scholarly work of prominent Guevara-critic Humberto Fontova. Notably, 52% of Fontova’s own Wikipedia entry is of a negative nature.
It should be noted that Wikipedia’s leftward slant did not factor into the website’s founding vision; rather, it developed over time. Jimmy Wales, who would become the project’s “benevolent dictator,” according to Andrew Lih’s The Wikipedia Revolution, is a libertarian and an Ayn Randian Objectivist. A second noteworthy influence that helped give form to Wikipedia was the so-called “hacker ethos,” the culture that has developed amongst computer programmers since the early 1970s and has been shaped by the Left, the counterculture, popular culture, and anarchist thought.
What binds these two ideologies together is a utopian conviction that human beings are more prone to altruism than to self-interest. In Wikipedia Revolution, for example, Wales is quoted as saying: “Generally we find most people out there on the Internet are good…. It’s one of the wonderful humanitarian discoveries in Wikipedia, that most people only want to help us and build this free nonprofit, charitable resource.” Andrew Lih explains how this philosophy is embedded within Wikipedia’s rules:
“A core idea Wikipedia embraced … was to assume good faith when interacting with others. The guideline promoted optimistic production rather than pessimistic nay-saying, and reads, ‘Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, assume that people who work on the project are trying to help it, not hurt it; avoid accusing others of harmful motives without particularly strong evidence.’”
But over time, Wikipedia in practice strayed from these utopian ideals because of the ease with which political and social bias trumps altruism. After almost a decade of rapid growth and free-wheeling experimentation, by the summer of 2009 Wikipedia was in chaos. Political operatives routinely sabotaged one another during election seasons by vandalizing the pages bearing profiles of their opponents. Malicious misinformation filtered in freely from contributors in the general public as well, with a number of living historical figures accused of involvement in conspiratorial plots.
Ira Matetsky, known by his Wikipedia handle “newyorkbrad,” is a lawyer and veteran Wikipedian—both an administrator on the site and part of its Arbitration Committee, the council of decision-makers who sort out disputes between editors. In a series of articles at the libertarian group blog The Volokh Conspiracy, Matetsky discussed numerous examples of Wikipedia’s misinformation and the profound effects it had on the lives of innocent people:
“…[M]alicious or simply thoughtless content added to Wikipedia [biographies of living persons] can be very damaging. A series of serious and widely reported incidents have brought the problem to public attention. Among these: the [Siegenthaler incident], in which an article was vandalized to accuse a completely innocent person of suspected complicity in an assassination, and no one caught the problem for four months; the incident in 2007 in which a Turkish academic was detained for several hours by immigration officials in Canada, reportedly based on an inaccurate allegation in his Wikipedia article that he was a terrorist; the lawsuit brought by a prominent golfer against the person who added defamatory content to his article; the blatant attack page created against a well-known California attorney, allegedly as part of a negative public-relations campaign launched on behalf of one of the companies he was suing.”
To address such derelictions, Wikipedia designated a contingent of 20,000 volunteer editors who would be given a greater level of authority to alter and control the content of entries on the website. Most notably, it would be their responsibility to act as guards for all articles about living people, reviewing suggested edits before they became visible to the public. The decision to deploy this army of editors was made by the Wikimedia Foundation, the California nonprofit that operates the website, not only to prevent libelous vandalism but also to reduce the threat of lawsuits. Jimmy Wales and Wikimedia chairman Michael Snow both voiced their support for the measure.
By definition, Wikipedia’s 20,000 volunteer editors are people who have significant amounts of free time to devote to an unpaid, utopian endeavor to shape the world’s information into a unified “consensus.” By and large, such individuals are more likely to hold liberal/left political views than members of the general population.
Further, a majority of the 100,000+ contributors who write and edit Wikipedia’s entries are likewise apt to lean leftward politically. According to Wikipedia, the average age of its contributors is 26.1; only one in three have a relationship partner; and just 14.7% have children. It has been well established that young, unmarried, childless adults tend disproportionately to support liberal/left candidates and causes. In 2011, for instance, the Pew Research Center reported that 18- to 30-year-olds had voted more Democratic than older voters in each of the previous four national elections. Fully half of respondents in this age group identified themselves as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, while just 36% affiliated with or leaned toward the Republican Party. Moreover, 57% of them favored a bigger government, and 61% favored Barack Obama in a prospective presidential matchup against Mitt Romney. Similar pro-Democrat leanings have been reported among unmarried men and women.
**Wikipedia and Israel
**Arguably the most contentious topic area in Wikipedia is Israel and the ongoing Arab-Israeli dispute. A collection of editors who can be accurately described as anti-Semites, Israel-haters, pro-Palestinians, and BDS supporters have banded together with an array of anarchists, radical leftists, and neo-Nazis to create and edit articles that disparage Jews and Israel. Some Wikipedia administrators, whose duty is to ensure fair play and unbiased editing, often allow their biases to get the better of them, and they become complicit by enforcing the rules against pro-Israel editors while ignoring transgressions committed by the anti-Israel camp.
As a result, Wikipedia contains a long list of articles highly critical of Israel and Jews. Among these are “Israel and the Apartheid Analogy,” “Jewish Religious Terrorism,” and a mammoth piece titled “Criticism of the Israeli Government,” which singles out Israel for special scrutiny and condemnation.
By contrast, reports author Ari Lieberman, “Attempts to highlight genuine apartheid in Arab countries through the creation of meticulously sourced, articulate articles were quashed. Similarly, there are no articles specifically dedicated to criticizing the Syrian, Saudi Arabian, Sudanese, North Korean and Iranian governments or other repressive, fascist regimes.”
The most noteworthy of Wikipedia’s anti-Israel editors is an individual who goes by the pseudonym “Nableezy,” a man with some Egyptian ancestry and a former resident of the Chicago area. Nableezy is a prolific Wikipedia editor who zealously focuses on the Arab-Israeli topic area, cherry-picking his sources to fit his anti-Israel agenda. Often, he rallies other anti-Israeli editors—so-called “meat puppets”—to converge or swarm on specific articles to either insert a particular anti-Israel viewpoint or to maintain an existing anti-Israel narrative.
It is all but certain that Nableezy edits under various IP addresses using different accounts. This practice is referred to as “sock puppetry” and is prohibited under Wikipedia’s rules. When a well-crafted effort based on meticulously documented evidence was brought forward to expose Nableezy’s practice of utilizing meat puppets and sock puppets, it failed due in large part to Nableezy’s ability to gather swarms of allied editors and sympathetic administrators to come to his defense.
In the Arab-Israeli topic area, Wikipedia rules (regarding content and objectivity) that are meant to be applied to both sides are generally enforced only against those thought to be pro-Israel. As a result of multiple enforcement actions, most of which were brought by Nableezy or his cohorts, the number of editors identified as having views sympathetic to Israel have dwindled to a trickle, while the ranks of passionately anti-Israel editors have swelled. Because articles appearing in Wikipedia are heavily influenced by “consensus,” Israeli narratives are generally marginalized while “Palestinian” narratives are overemphasized. A few examples:
- The term “Judea and Samaria” denoting the biblical and historical name for the West Bank may not be used to describe that geographical location. Any attempt to do so will get the offending editor banned.
- Israeli cities, towns and villages across the Green Line must be referenced as “settlements.”
- All articles describing Israeli cities, towns and villages in Judea and Samaria contain the following sentence in the lead paragraph; “The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law.” The sentence is inaccurate ,but efforts to remove this erroneous allegation are instantly met with a torrent of objections and ultimate reversion by Nableezy or one of his acolytes.
- Yasser Arafat was long rumored to have been gay, and there is some credible evidence suggesting that he was also a pedophile who had sexual relations with boys between the ages of 13 and 15. All efforts to insert these well-sourced facts into the Arafat article were rebuffed. Arafat’s sexual orientation is clearly relevant, given the discrimination and outright hostility gay Arabs are forced to endure in Palestinian society. It is also relevant given persistent rumors that Arafat had died of AIDS.
- Arafat’s life was marked by corruption, terrorism and murder, yet the Wikipedia article on Arafat the PLO leader sanitizes his involvement in these activities.
- Credible sources suspected of being pro-Israel are routinely subjected to heightened scrutiny and are often rejected as biased or untrustworthy. Conversely, anti-Israel sources such as the government-controlled Qatari mouthpiece Al-Jazeera and the Palestinian Authority’s Ma’an News (which dabbles in Holocaust denial), are accepted without equivocation. Anti-Israel scholars such as Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein, whose works have been soundly discredited, are often cited as authoritative.
Many of those who edit Wikipedia do so under pseudonyms, while others freely edit under their own names. One individual in the latter category is Roland Rance, a Marxist Jew who chairs an organization called “Jews against Zionism.” Rance and Nableezy, along with a host of assorted anti-Israel, anti-Semitic editors, often employ tag-team tactics to exhaust or overwhelm those who maintain contrary opinions.
To be sure, there are some administrators at Wikipedia who are impartial and take their responsibilities seriously. But when they have challenged misconduct by Nableezy and his allies, they have been subjected to vitriolic abuse and have been forced to back off. This has had a chilling effect on other editors and administrators, who have mostly decided to steer clear of the Arab-Israel topic area, lest they encounter the same treatment.