The world’s largest reference site is subject to a relentlessly partisan slant
Wikipedia is the world’s largest reference website. It would like us to think that it is “helping to create a world in which everyone can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.” But while anyone can edit Wikipedia pages, the number of active contributors (132,181 in the “last month”) is rather fewer than the 1.7 billion “unique-device” visitors. This means that a tiny minority of users are determining how the vast majority consumes its information. In other words, they are editors who have power over the content we see and what we do not.
Nowhere is this issue more visible than on the subject of trans rights. Last month, UnHerd reported on proceedings at Council of Europe, which debated Resolution 2417, ‘Combating rising hate against LGBTI people in Europe’. The Council listed a familiar group of nations — Hungary, Poland, Russia and Turkey — as hotbeds of rising LGBTI hate crime, but it also included a surprising addition: the United Kingdom.
Never mind that the accompanying report cited data that placed the UK fifth best in the entire continent, gender critical women speaking up for their rights in the UK were singled out for condemnation and even discussed in the same breath as Russia, notorious for its concentration camps in Chechnya.
In response, Tonia Antoniazzi — Labour MP for Gower — and four other members of the UK delegation tabled ten amendments, one of which would have deleted the words, “and the United Kingdom.” One might assume that this was just a run-in-the-mill case of parliamentary scrutiny, but what happened to Antoniazzi’s Wikipedia page after was chilling. Within hours of the debate, an editor called ‘Hotpantsraindance’ added a whole paragraph:
In January 2022, Antoniazzi and other Labour delegates to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe tabled amendments to a report on rising hate against LGBTI people in Europe that removed references to anti-LGBTI attacks in the UK, a condemnation of anti-trans movements, and a call to withdraw funding from anti-LGBTI groups or authorities. The amendments were not adopted.Hotpantsraindance, Wikipedia Edit
Not only was this paragraph factually inaccurate — three of the ten amendments were adopted — it included flagrant editorialisation. Five days later, the page became distinctly partisan. Citing a negative Pink News piece, ‘OwenBlacker’ added that the delegates had been “criticised for trying to play down the UK’s transphobia problem.”
The delegates had indeed been criticised by Pink News, but elsewhere they were praised for defending the UK from these scurrilous claims. The UK does not have a specific “transphobia problem”, and I say that as a trans person living here.
A third editor then joined the fray, removing the inaccurate claim in an attempt to restore some balance. Citing both UnHerd and Pink News, Dskjt indicated that, “the delegates received both praise and criticism.”
Sense at last? Alas not. Hotpantsraindance returned to the battlefield, reverted OwenBlacker’s edit and expunged the link to UnHerd. The Pink News account is once again unchallenged. Anyone reading Antoniazzi’s page today* will be influenced by Pink News and probably not even realise — an alarming prospect when an MP’s reputation is at stake.
This is just one example of what goes on behind closed doors at Wikipedia. It is instructive of how a small group of activist editors can manipulate information to service their agenda, which is getting more blatant by the year. As Wikipedia co-creator Larry Sanger told Freddie Sayers in an interview with UnHerd, the site has become increasingly partisan, primarily espousing a singular viewpoint that increasingly represents “propaganda”. He added that the system was “broken beyond repair” and for that reason, he no longer trusts the website he created. Perhaps it’s time the rest of us followed suit.
The Wikipedia links are specific edits in the history of the page.
* This article was first published by Unherd on 8 February 2022: On Wikipedia, trans activists are always editing.
4 replies on “On Wikipedia, trans activists are always editing”
I know activists of any sort have to be ‘extreme’ to make themselves heard and seen, but our behaviour is is also of extreme importance, and that includes what we say and write. We have to be careful about what lines we cross and how far. I know we’re all human and tempers flare and things get said, but if we cross the line too far too many times, we lose credibility and trust.
This problem has been happening on Wikipedia for years now, and it is a huge problem. On any topic that is controversial, you’ll have partisan editors lined up on either side. Whichever side is more persistent in pushing their edits is the side that determines what the article says. To make matters worse, the administrators (who should be unbiased on any given issue) are often very biased on controversial issues. I wrote an article on the Seth Material, a philosophy or (in my view) a theology set forth by an American psychic named Jane Roberts who died in 1984. (The Seth Material forms the basis of my religious views.) Even though I tried very hard to be objective in the way I wrote the article, both atheists and Christians were offended by it because the Seth Material says there is a God (and even describes God), but the Material also says that Christ wasn’t actually crucified. So these two groups of editors ganged up on me and cut the article down by 75%. This kind of thing happens on many subjects. Another example is that I have tried to remove what I call “Gender Speak” from articles on Wikipedia, especially articles about transgender people, but I am always overridden by other editors who insist on using the special vocabulary of trans activists (which is not widely accepted among average people on either side of the Atlantic).
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Nor accepted on either side of the Pacific, either.
Katrina, I haven’t figured out how to use the comment system here. I didn’t mean to post my comment in response to what you said, but in response to Debbie’s article. Nonetheless, thank you for your feedback.
If it is all right with Debbie, I am posting a link here to an article that I wrote myself. I tried to balance my criticism of trans ideology with a respect for how trans people feel, but I may not have accomplished that very well, as trans ideology fills me with resentment.
Right now I’m in a state of terror at what Putin has done, and I’m worried about nuclear war. I’m close enough to NYC that a strike on NYC would kill me too.