Wikipedia is the most widely used source of information in the world, and a great deal has been written about its impact on public perception of certain topics. Wikipedia shapes both scientific research and real-world economic outcomes, and is the top source of medical information for both doctors and patients. The widespread reliance on Wikipedia would not be a problem if it were a neutral and authoritative source, but earlier this year Wikipedia’s co-founder Larry Sanger declared that “Wikipedia’s ‘NPOV’ (neutral point of view) is dead.” Is Sanger’s statement correct?
Despite efforts on Wikipedia to censor any mention of the New York Post’s bombshell revelations about Joe and Hunter Biden’s alleged involvement in potentially corrupt foreign business dealings, claiming the Post is an “unreliable” source, editors have since reluctantly allowed mentioning the story provided the Post is not cited. However, coverage has been largely confined to an article labeling the allegations a “conspiracy theory,” and editors have sought to portray the story as discredited or even as “Russian disinformation” in the article and in a “FAQ” on its discussion page.
Editors have rejected mentioning Fox News reports confirming some of the Post’s reporting due to the outlet being discouraged as a source for politically contentious content since a Wikipedia discussion in July. The claims have so far been kept out of the page for Hunter Biden entirely, where corruption allegations are characterized as “debunked” conspiracy theories.
After the Post published e-mails obtained from a laptop purportedly owned by Biden suggesting he introduced an adviser for the allegedly corrupt Burisma energy firm to his father, Vice President Biden, social media sites Facebook and Twitter began censoring or suppressing posts about the story with Twitter locking accounts and blocking links to the Post’s article. On Wikipedia, editors added the allegations to the article on “Conspiracy theories related to the Trump–Ukraine scandal” citing the Post, Fox News, and the Daily Mail, yet their edits were repeatedly removed mainly citing a discussion last month declaring the Post an “unreliable” source. Citing Daily Mail has similarly been prohibited on Wikipedia and the same is true for numerous other conservative media outlets, including Breitbart News.
An online battle has erupted over the Wikipedia page for Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., with a significant uptick in edits that reflects a pattern that’s been seen ahead of past vice-presidential announcements and led Wikipedia to put the page under “discretionary sanctions.”
The trend was first reported last week by The Intercept. According to the revision history of the Harris article on Wikipedia, there have been 500 revisions to the page since May 9, most of which have been made by one highly prolific editor.