by Debbie Hayton
Tuesday, 8
February 2022
Reaction
13:15

On Wikipedia, trans activists are always editing

The world's largest reference site is subject to a relentlessly partisan slant
by Debbie Hayton
Tonia Antoniazzi, Labour MP for Gower, said the UK was not transphobic

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.

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Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
4 months ago

I think you credit Wikipedia with far too much influence. I might consult it if I wanted to know something of arcane interest, like the date of the Battle of Agincourt or the capital of the Solomon Islands, but for anything of immediate contemporary significance nobody in their right minds would believe a word they read on Wikipedia.

Last edited 4 months ago by Francis MacGabhann
Andrea X
Andrea X
4 months ago

Quite!

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
4 months ago

And that’s putting mildly. It’s more like fualty-pedia.
Encyclopedia Britannica, old faithful, with a long history and if you like you can also look up “Transgender” and be surprise by what you find.
http://www.britannica.com
I’m not a sponsor, but who knows, maybe it’s worth a test? Once upon a time, it was a source of page flipping when the internet hadn’t even been invented That’s for all the those out there who don’t know that things used to be put on paper and fact-checked before they were printed.
Viva la internet!

Last edited 4 months ago by Raymond Inauen
Noel Chiappa
Noel Chiappa
4 months ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

when the internet hadn’t even been invented”
Having seen too many mis-spellings of “Internet” on UnHerd, I’ve decided to speak up.
‘Internet’ and ‘internet’ are different words, with different meanings – a fact apparently unknown to the people who started the lower-casing craze.
There are many internets which are not connected to the Internet (and see how that makes no sense without the two different meanings/spellings); just do a Web search or ‘air gap’ to see why.
The  Internet Engineering Task Force, the body which sets all the technical standards which the Internet (and other internets) need to operate, resolutely retains use of ‘Internet’ to refer to the large public internet; see e.g. the most recent RFC, https://www.rfc-editor.org/rfc/rfc9174.txt
Saying ‘oh, but ‘internet’ has now become the public standard’ is not a valid defense; ‘germ’ is commonly used by the public, but anyone referring to the ‘COVID germ’ will be thought ill-educated, and with good reason: the biology/medical field has the term ‘virus’ for a reason, and it’s appropriate for those outside the biology/medical field to use their terminology.
Thank you.
Noel

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
4 months ago
Reply to  Noel Chiappa

Another arcane factoid. But quite accurate. But I think that war has been lost.

Noel Chiappa
Noel Chiappa
4 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

It’s only lost if people give up. Don’t!
And spread the word that to use ‘internet’ is to show one’s just like someone who talks about the ‘COVID germ’.
Noel

Helen E
Helen E
4 months ago
Reply to  Raymond Inauen

I will never toss my old (1970s) hard-copy set of Encyclopedia Britannica volumes.

Lou Campbell
Lou Campbell
4 months ago

The thing is it’s the first thing that comes up on Google and does the reference to things on Kindle.
Probably others but those are the two I come into contact with almost daily.

tom j
tom j
4 months ago

I don’t. If you are looking at something or someone new, such as the Labour MP named here, you’re going to google them, you’re going to scan the Wikipedia article (it’s the very first thing in the search results), and you’re going to be influenced by what you read there. Perhaps some of us pretend we’d use the Bodleian library, but you can’t doubt the influence Wikipedia has.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
4 months ago
Reply to  tom j

And you just need to use your intelligence to assess the material, like you would for any reference source.
Do you think the other historical sources aren’t biased? How do you think the phrase ‘history is written by the victor’ came about?

Last edited 4 months ago by Ian Stewart
Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
4 months ago
Reply to  tom j

A key indicator is that for most contemporary people, especially activists and politicians, details of their upbringing, education and religious background is often missing, as if this were somehow unimportant to why a person holds the views they do.
In my view a person’s religious (or non-religious) views are the most important thing about them, especially if they are involved in politics. For instance, I think that ‘woke’ is a reigious revivalist movement, only not the one most usually fingered.

Last edited 4 months ago by Arnold Grutt
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
4 months ago

I use Wikipedia a number of times every day as I look up cross references in the history books I’m reading or the tv documentaries I’m watching, and I find it to be an extremely useful source.
Recently I’ve been reading a very detailed recently published history of 17th Century England and looking up Wikipedia constantly for cross references, and I was very disappointed to see that the historian who had written the book had failed to mention a key fact about the cultural development of the glorious revolution (when John Locke was producing material about governance in cahoots with the 1st Earl Of Shaftesbury), but Wikipedia referenced it in its main entry on the events leading to William’s takeover.
So I’m not one of those intellectual snobs who talks Wikipedia down – it’s an excellent historical reference source as far as I’m concerned. But one has to calibrate the balance in every source with other sources.

R Wright
R Wright
4 months ago

Welcome to 2008. Even wikipedia’s own founder has disavowed the site. Mentally ill ideological crusaders on state benefits with nothing but free time have destroyed much on the internet. Wikipedia is chronologically far up the list of casualties.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
4 months ago

Re-defining words to suit the mores of C21st political activists is entirely par for the course.
My (40 year old) dictionary defines Gender as “The quality of being Male or Female”. More recent online dictionaries have broadened the definition to include this idea of gender being on a spectrum.
Can we not have a different word to describe this spectrum other than “Gender”? This re-definition, surely, is where much of the argument derives from.
Most people can, quite correctly, define gender in the way it has been used for all of our lifetimes, until its meaning was expanded-upon and changed very recently. They are now being told to deny that truth – or be denounced as a bigot.
If I meet a trans person and they ask me to call them a different name, or by different pronouns, I will acquiesce simply out of courtesy. They are entitled to their choices, their sense of self, they can do whatever makes them happy, and who am I to judge?
However, when activists that I haven’t met INSIST that I must fall into line with the new dogma – one that flies in the face of long-established meaning – then I don’t see why I should be forced, why anyone should be forced, to play along.
Must we now twist the language as well as deny long-established science to accommodate the new activist orthodoxy?
As I say, on an individual basis, I am perfectly willing to accept someone for who they are, however they choose to define themselves – to do otherwise seems unnecessarily rude or intolerant. But no one should be forced, on pain of public shaming and “cancellation”, to say things, or believe things, that are not factually true.
On a similar note – though venturing into a different contentious argument – it is often illuminating to see how definitions change over time. I just consulted the same 40 year old dictionary and it defines “Nationalist” thusly – A person who favours or strives after the unity, independence or interests of a nation.
My online dictionary more than slightly alters that by defining a nationalist as – a person who strongly identifies with their own nation and vigorously supports its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.
It offers, as synonyms, the following terms : chauvinist · jingoist · jingo · flag-waver · isolationist · xenophobe.
When, How, and (perhaps more pertinently) Why, did the word become a pejorative?
If you want to own the argument – as activists obviously do – then I guess the best first step is to redefine the terms to suit you, and thus to cast any who disagree as bigots.

Last edited 4 months ago by Paddy Taylor
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
4 months ago

Thanks Debbie. Students and schoolchildren, who are the most avid users of it, need to be told about the bias of Wikipedia. I had a minor run in with the editing mafia when I tried to correct a small point in an article (on ellipsis of all things!). They made such a fuss that I have never attempted to edit anything again although I have often noticed errors. I have heard many stories like yours about much more serious issues.

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago

Freddie’s interview was instructive: Wikipedia is just another Big Tech radical left organization. Like some commentators, I tried to make some edits but gave up. Most recently a Jewish NYC mayoral candidate had in her biography that she had fled Iran due to religious persecution. Fair play. But she and her family fled to Israel, and then came to the US under false pretenses, where the entire family lived as illegal immigrants for many years, until granted amnesty. Hey, if you wait long enough, it will come. The INS is kind of a gigantic Squid Game for immigration.
Her official biography made it look like she came to the US from Iran. No mention of Israe, no mention of her illegal presence for many years. Just another filthy scammer. I tried to mention that she had omitted her time in Israel, and as a Jew, presumably did not flee Israel to escape religious persecution. The edit was accepted and posted without incident.
For about 15 seconds.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
4 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

But then, if you read some of the information provided by Wiki on Israel, you just might believe it is a place to flee from. I don’t & will, hopefully, be fleeing there next month!

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago

There may be valid reasons to leave Israel, but to say you are facing religious persecution as a Jew in Israel is not one of them. Or to completely omit that you had been in Israel before you scammed your way into the US–and saying/implying that you “fled” Iran, is untrue and disgusting.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
4 months ago

If I ever use Wikipedia for a topic which is REMOTELY controversial in ANY way, I take it with a large pinch of salt. For me, Wikipedia is more of a jumping-off point than a landing zone. I start my analysis there; I do not end it there.

I understand that the editor may be: 1) Biased 2) Wrong 3) Out-of-date 4) Misinformed 5) Dishonest 6) Scamming

Reading BETWEEN the lines is as important as learning to read. What is the author trying to say? does he have an agenda? is he authoritative? Is he: 1) Informing? 2) Convincing? 3) Introducing? 4) Opining?

This all holds true in any form of communication, written or spoken.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
4 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

And of course as a reader you may be biased or wrong in how you choose to subjectively interpret information.

Last edited 4 months ago by Ian Stewart
Andrea X
Andrea X
4 months ago

Look on the bright side, Debbie, at least Antoniazzi didn’t have an “exposé” on “her past” in the sex and porn industry. That is the kind of edit that is relatively common for people with a public profile.

As Francis mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t dream of.comsulting Wikipedia for something even remotely controversial, and if I did it would be with alarm bells ringing at full volume.

Last edited 4 months ago by Andrea X
Ian Moore
Ian Moore
4 months ago

This whole situation is utter madness and while I appreciate people such as Debbie speaking out, I just cannot wait the people pushing this to the fore to get bored and move onto something else.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
4 months ago

I am very aware of the biases across many entries I have come across and I do think many people do understand how it works. It is a shame in a way, the more dangerous propagandists are the most committed, who tone the bias right down with just enough slant to allow others to base more extreme or partisan views upon it.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
4 months ago

Well done Debbie, keep up the good work.