Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger criticized the current state of the online encyclopedia he started in a recent interview, casting doubt on whether it can be trusted to provide unbiased information because of the heavy input of editors with “establishment” views.
“You can trust it to give a reliably establishment point of view on pretty much everything,” Mr. Sanger, who launched Wikipedia in 2001 with Jimmy Wales, said in an interview published online Wednesday.
“Can you trust it to always give you the truth? Well, it depends on what you think the truth is,” added Mr. Sanger, who left Wikipedia in 2002 and has been vocally critical of the site ever since.
Recalling the early years of Wikipedia, which allows its users to anonymously contribute and edit content, Mr. Sanger said that it was a lot easier back then for people to participate in those processes.
Several years ago, said Mr. Sanger, a Wikipedia article for a hot-button issue such as a U.S. president’s record would be presented with “multiple different points of view, reasonably, fairly laid out.”
But as Wikipedia gained influence over time, Mr. Sanger said that “a very big, nasty, complex game” emerged behind the scenes being played by people wanting the website to push a particular narrative, usually coming from the left side of the political spectrum.
Mr. Sanger cited the Wikipedia page for President Biden, arguing that it presented an “extremely biased” interpretation of allegations made against him and “reads like a defense counsel’s brief.”
“I think that there are a lot of people who would be highly motivated to go in and make the article more neutral, more politically neutral, but they’re not allowed to,” claimed Mr. Sanger.
“Wikipedia is pretty reliably establishment in its viewpoint, whatever the viewpoint is, which is ironic considering its origins from a couple of libertarians who, at least in the beginning, were really tolerant and open to all sorts of anti-establishment views being canvassed within the article,” he added.
Mr. Sanger argued Wikipedia readers “do not want to be led by the nose” before criticizing the website for not allowing content that cites outlets like the populist British tabloid The Daily Mail.
“So what does that mean? It means that if a controversy does not appear in the mainstream, center-left media, then it’s not going to appear on Wikipedia,” he said.
“If only one version of the facts is allowed, then that gives a huge incentive to wealthy and powerful people to seize control of things like Wikipedia in order to shore up their power,” Mr. Sanger said. “And they do that.”
Wikipedia deemed the Daily Mail an “unreliable source” in 2017 and said it could no longer be cited in online entries. A spokesperson for the paper responded then by calling it a “cynical politically motivated attempt to stifle the free press.”
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