Inside Wikipedia's leftist bias: socialism pages whitewashed, communist atrocities buried
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Big tech has faced repeated accusations of bias and censorship, but one platform has escaped much scrutiny: Wikipedia.
The online encyclopedia, which claims “anyone can edit”, is the 13th most popular website in the world, according to Alexa’s web rankings. Google gives it special placement in search results.
But critics – including Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger – tell Fox News that many Wikipedia pages have become merely left-wing advocacy essays.
“The days of Wikipedia’s robust commitment to neutrality are long gone,” co-founder Larry Sanger said.
“Wikipedia’s ideological and religious bias is real and troubling, particularly in a resource that continues to be treated by many as an unbiased reference work,” he added.
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Wikipedia pages related to socialism and communism contain stark examples.
The two main pages for “Socialism” and “Communism” span a massive 28,000 words, and yet they contain no discussion of the genocides committed by socialist and communist regimes, in which tens of millions of people were murdered and starved.
“The omission of large-scale mass murder, slave labor, and man-made famines is negligent and deeply misleading,” economics professor Bryan Caplan, who has studied the history of communism, told Fox News.
The pages include plenty of history, Caplan noted, and are not confined to just philosophical claims. But the history focuses on flattering claims.
Wikipedia’s Socialism page announces: “The Soviet era saw some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century.”
It ignores a man-made famine in which Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin commandeered the food from regions like Ukraine and Kazakhstan, leaving millions to starve to death even as the Soviet Union exported grain to foreign countries.
Asked for comment, a Wikimedia Foundation spokesperson sent a statement noting that “Wikipedia is a living, breathing project, and is always evolving just as our shared understanding of a topic does.” The response also noted that the foundation does not directly control content on Wikipedia, which is written by volunteer editors. The statement did not address any specific criticisms of the content.
The Wikipedia socialism page also mentions China’s Communist history, but only begins its description in 1976, after Mao Zedong’s reign of terror had already killed tens of millions.
“After Mao Zedong’s death in 1976… China’s economic performance pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty,” the encyclopedia says.
The article fails to mention Mao’s prior communist programs such as his “Great Leap Forward”, in which private farming was abolished, leading to mass famine that killed tens of millions.
It also neglects to mention Mao’s “Cultural Revolution”, in which, according to the History Channel, “Millions of young radicals who formed the paramilitary Red Guards shut down schools, destroyed religious and cultural relics and killed intellectuals and party elites believed to be anti-revolutionaries.”
Wikipedia does maintain less central sub-pages that contain facts such as those, as well as a page titled “Mass killings under communist regimes.” But it gets no discussion on the main pages; merely a stray link at the very end under a “see also” heading.
Chinese-American immigrant Lily Tang Williams, who lived through Mao’s cultural revolution, says she’s outraged by Wikipedia’s focus.
“Who writes this stuff? Trying to whitewash crimes against humanity?” she asked.
“What about students, who now will not know the real history of what happened? Or even teachers who won’t know?” she asked. Tang Williams volunteers at schools to teach kids about the history of communism in China, and her personal experience with it. She also presents it on her YouTube channel.
“I went through the entire 10 years of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, as child. I witnessed it,” she said. “Of course I was extremely brainwashed — we just did not know any truths at all, it was like living on a concentration camp. 6:30am every morning a loudspeaker comes on and tells you about the news and chants ‘long live chairman Mao.’ The memory of my childhood… we were hungry all the time. It was constant chaos.”
The two main Socialism and Capitalism pages also fail to note any of the atrocities committed by other socialist and communist regimes, from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Cambodia, or North Korea, among others.
Wikipedia bills itself as the “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” But experienced Wikipedians say new users will find they cannot simply fix things.
One prolific Wikipedia editor, Jonathan Weiss, told Fox News that “bias on Wikipedia somewhat reflects the bias in academia and journalism. It’s easier to find an open Marxist rather than a center-right conservative,” he said.
Weiss mentioned one Wikipedia “administrator” as an example. Administrators are a select group of people who make final calls about what goes on pages. One has a photo of Soviet dictator Vladimir Lenin on their profile paired with a Lenin quote about how even “The most democratic bourgeois republics” are “organs of class oppression.”
Weiss is in the top 100 Wikipedia editors by contributions, having made more than 415,142 edits on the site since 2006, mostly on sports-related pages.
But he said that the political pages have largely been taken over by editors with a political axe to grind.
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“If you’re the only one who’s not a Marxist on a page, you’re going to lose,” he said. “It can quickly be disheartening.”
The talk pages show that various users attempted to add balance to the socialism and communism pages. In 2020, for example, longtime Wikipedia volunteer “Narssarssuaq” added a mention to the communism page about the atrocities committed, sourced to a Harvard University Press publication, but the edit was quickly erased by other editors.
“Communism didn’t kill these people; Stalin did,” one user argued. “I’ve always been bothered by the concept that famines are caused by communism.”
The user, “Narssarssuaq” later quit Wikipedia (not necessarily over the communism page).
“Right now my conscience does not allow me to contribute to this project, not even with attempts to provide balance to biased articles,” he wrote in a goodbye message.
“The era of Wikipedia… is over,” he said.
Encyclopedia Britannica provides one alternative. A study by Harvard researchers published in a peer-reviewed journal concluded that, “we find that Wikipedia articles are more slanted towards Democratic views than are Britannica articles, as well as more biased.”
Asked for comment about the study, a Wikimedia spokesperson noted that the study also “shows how the more people edit an article, the more neutral it becomes.” She also pointed to another study that found that page quality is higher when editors are more politically diverse, and lower when they think alike.
Weiss said the only hope for Wikipedia achieving more balance is if many more non-leftist editors join Wikipedia. But it can feel like a futile effort, as new editors find themselves outnumbered on political pages, with edits for balance deleted. Weiss suggested that new editors cut their teeth on non-political pages.
Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger says that the deck is too stacked on Wikipedia for it to ever be salvaged, and he is now working on a protocol called “Encyclosphere” to facilitate other encyclopedias.
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Asked about whether the site was too far gone to fix, Weiss said he had hope.
“I’m a person who’s already dropped 10,000 hours of my life on Wikipedia, but it is disheartening,” Weiss said.
“But I think it’s in theory salvageable. I’m not giving up yet,” he said.
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