The US 2020 presidential campaign is heating up across the internet, and it would seem that some of the most visited websites that voters turn to in order to get information are taking sides.
According to Breitbart’s reporting, Wikipedia is one of them.
Wikipedia’s reputation, or rather, perception of its encyclopedic trustworthiness and impartiality has been for the most part ill-deserved, due to the manner in which content is created on the platform – nevertheless, this reputation exists. And if the Breitbart article is anything to go by, political bias is now further eroding Wikipedia’s credibility. But perhaps, worryingly, not its status.
T.D. Adler, a former Wikipedia editor, writes that the website has decided to support the rhetoric of the likes of Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when it comes to defining “concentration and internment camps.”
As of two months ago, this list includes US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) border facilities for illegal immigrants from Mexico. Although concern about conditions in these facilities has been raised by both Republicans and Democrats, labeling them as “concentration camps” will easily sound to many as unsubstantiated inflammatory rhetoric – something that should be unwelcome.
The article offers a glimpse into the chaotic to-and-fro process behind Wikipedia’s article, with months of bickering over whether or not to include the definition. One way to resolve such controversies is apparently the opinion of one user – one with administrator privileges who is free to use a pseudonym.
In this case, the page that listed ICE facilities as concentration camps were locked “with the section included” when “administrator ‘El C’ used his advanced privileges” to do this. More fighting followed, until another administrator announced consensus and closed the discussion.
“Walton suggested objections to listing ICE facilities as concentration camp were ‘not based in policy’ claiming many were either mere disagreement without explanation or simply dismissing reliable sourcing as political rather than presenting more substantive critique,” writes T.D. Adler.
The article further reminded of what’s pretty well known, but bears repeating: unregistered users – i.e., anyone – can introduce changes to Wikipedia pages, which can then get picked up by mainstream media outlets, and organizations such as Antifa, and further disseminated as facts.
The Breitbart article’s author – who was banned from Wikipedia as an editor after disagreements over what is effectively Wikipedia’s “editorial policy” – makes a case of it having a role in perpetuating not only left-wing bias but also left-wing radicalization.