Wikipedia’s silent grip on knowledge gives it too much power
Wikipedia’s quiet dominance over internet knowledge and its close ties to big, authoritarian tech companies give the online encyclopedia site too much unchecked power.
In a recent example, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is under federal and state investigation for mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic and growing list of scandals, is portrayed on his Wikipedia page in one light. positive while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential GOP frontrunner for the 2024 presidential election, is portrayed as a partisan hack who has ignored science.
it’s crazy. see the various wikipedia descriptions on the response to the desantis and cuomo pandemic: pic.twitter.com/nIalfVPBuB
– Logan Hall (@loganclarkhall) June 8, 2021
Anyone looking for information on the pandemic responses from these two governors will receive this information which is not necessarily true, and Wikipedia does not appear to be doing anything about it. In fact, any user who wanted to manipulate a page to fit their agenda could as long as it escaped the Wikipedia editing process. This happened seven years ago when a Wikipedia user ignored The Federalist’s long list of “featured” posts and important interviews in an attempt to remove the entry from our post because, according to the user, it “does not exceed the threshold of notability”.
Wikipedia’s shift to the left, especially when it echoes stories found in corporate media, is not sudden. Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger is just one of many people who have recently drawn attention to Wikipedia by slowly but steadily saying goodbye to his neutrality. In an interview in February, Sanger said the 20-year-old website’s left turn is “disheartening” and “disturbing.”
“Wikipedia’s ideological and religious bias is real and disturbing, especially in a resource that continues to be treated by many as an unbiased reference work,” Sanger said.
Years earlier, Sanger had claimed that the online encyclopedia was “beyond repair” and had sounded the alarm on the informal aspects associated with the so-called site editing process, which he said met the “rule of thumb”. the crowd “.
Wikipedia was founded in 2001 to provide peer-reviewed information written by knowledgeable people, but over the past two decades the online site has grown into a huge propaganda machine that is being bolstered and used by powerful global corporations to censor and suppress dissidents.
Wikipedia currently defines itself as “a free, multilingual online encyclopedia written and maintained by a community of volunteer contributors through an open collaboration model, using a wiki-based editing system”, but it does not stop at simply offer curious Internet users a place to find answers. In addition to posting millions of pages of information online for free, Wikipedia also offers various projects including Wikimedia Commons, Multilingual Wikisource, Wikibooks, Wikidata, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikiversity, Wikivoyage, and Wiktionary.
Wikipedia’s policy that “anyone with access to the Internet can write and edit Wikipedia articles”, with a few exceptions, seems democratic, but even with an edit approval process littered with rules and a few protected pages, the online encyclopedia seems to produce biased or even erroneous information. regularly. High school and college students are cautioned against using Wikipedia as a source for academic papers for this reason, but anyone can google anything and often sees the best search engine result of Google encourages them to click on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia hoaxes and “vandals” have always been a problem for the site, but the deliberate rotation of information to fit a certain narrative is a growing concern. While Wikipedia itself does not necessarily determine the narrative that is described in a particular article, as it can be created by anyone with “Internet access”, the website also does not appear to have a problem or process. to face the excessive prejudices it projects on the Internet.
Wikipedia’s control over online knowledge appears monopolistic, but Rachel Bovard, director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute, says it’s technically ineligible. “
“I don’t think Wikipedia can be called a monopoly for several reasons, but in large part because it’s not necessarily illegal to be large, dominant, or even a monopoly itself,” Bovard told the Federalist. .
While Wikipedia is technically not a monopoly, it is clear that the group-thinking-focused website has a grip on the dissemination of knowledge.
“Having said that, of course, one of the main concerns of the Internet age is the concentrated control of global information in the hands of two or three dominant players. This is the case with Google, which filters information for 90% of the United States, and arguably a case that could also be applied to Wikipedia, ”explained Bovard. “When a dominant site indulges in an ideological distortion of information – while presenting that information as objective to the user – this has obvious consequences and downstream effects on the way people think, forming relationships. opinions and even if they know how to look for alternatives. The more Wikipedia works hand in hand with companies known to moderate content according to ideological principles (like Apple, Amazon and Google), the less consumers should be confident that the information presented is done objectively.
What is even more concerning about the control of Wikipedia is how it is in cahoots with big tech to keep it that way. In addition to being propelled to the top of search results by Google and employed by Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri to answer user questions, the digital encyclopedia company regularly receives money from global tech oligarchs .
In 2019, Google gave Wikipedia $ 3.1 million, “bringing its total contribution to the free encyclopedia over the past decade to over $ 7.5 million.” Amazon, Microsoft and Apple have also proven themselves on Wikipedia by making large donations to the website and its projects over the past few years.
Twitter is also fueling the Wikipedia-centric world by relying on its entries to determine which users get blue check marks next to their names, a move that an “active Wikipedian” said “illustrates the institutionalization of Wikipedia’s definition. of a “user” and points to certain ideological alignments between Wikipedia and Twitter.
“Wikipedia counts a lot in categories for businesses, brands, nonprofits, and activists, organizers and other influencers. Companies and brands must meet two of the three “presence in public indexes” requirements such as “Wikipedia (including multiple references to unaffiliated external sources)”, a recurring presence in eligible media or the number of subscribers in the top 0.1% of active accounts located in the same country, ”Slate reported in late 2020.
Google’s Facebook and YouTube are also known to rely on information entered by users on Wikipedia to perform partisan and fake “factual checks” on their respective platforms.
These deep relationships between Wikipedia and the Silicon Valley giants, Bovard said, could potentially spur policymakers to act.
“Historically, whenever America has faced technology that begins to dramatically change the way we live, interact, speak or deal, they have relied on the common law tradition of transit, or on a variant thereof. Other options exist as well, ranging from public housing laws to the link between existing public law privileges such as section 230 and more responsible and non-discriminatory behavior of platforms, ”Bovard said.
If knowledge is power, then Wikipedia’s quiet infiltration of the Internet is of great concern. Wikipedia clearly dominates information on the Internet. With regular funding and promotion from big tech, the online encyclopedia and its shift to the left is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Jordan Davidson is a writer at The Federalist. She graduated from Baylor University where she majored in political science and minor in journalism.