by UnHerd
Tuesday, 14
December 2021
Video
15:00

Wikipedia co-founder: I no longer trust the website I created

Freddie Sayers spoke to Larry Sanger about why he left
by UnHerd


Chances are, if you’ve ever been on the internet, you’ve visited Wikipedia. It is the world’s fifth largest website, pulling in an estimated 6.1 billion followers per month and serves as a cheat sheet for almost any topic in the world. So great is the online encyclopaedia’s influence that it is the biggest and “most read reference work in history”, with as many as 56 million editions. 

But the truth about this supposedly neutral purveyor of information is a little more complex. Historically, Wikipedia has been written and monitored by a community of volunteers who collaborated and contested competing claims with one another. In the words of Wikipedia’s co-founder, Larry Sanger who spoke to Freddie Sayers on LockdownTV, these volunteers would “battle it out”. 

This battle of ideas on Wikipedia’s platform formed a crucial part of the encyclopaedia’s commitment to neutrality, which according to Sanger, was abandoned after 2009. In the years since, on issues ranging from Covid to Joe Biden, it has become increasingly partisan, primarily espousing an establishment viewpoint that increasingly represents “propaganda”. This, says Sanger, is why he left the site in 2007, describing it as “broken beyond repair”.

On Wikipedia’s Left-wing bias:

You can’t cite the Daily Mail at all. You can’t cite Fox News on socio-political issues either. It’s banned. So what does that mean? It means that if a controversy does not appear in the mainstream centre-Left media, then it’s not going to appear on Wikipedia.
- Larry Sanger, UnHerd

On Covid:

If you look at the articles that Wikipedia has, you can just see how they are simply mouthing the view of the World Economic Council or World Economic Forum, and the World Health Organisation, the CDC and various other establishment mouthpieces like Fauci — they take their cues from them…There’s a global enforcement of a certain point of view, which is amazing to me amazing to a libertarian, or a liberty-loving conservative.
- Larry Sanger, UnHerd

In what ways other than politics does that establishment view come across?

Eastern medicine is basically called quackery in dismissive, quite judgmental, language and so forth. It’s done, apparently without any compunctions at all. Then when it comes to Christianity, the viewpoint on Christianity given is the liberal one that would be found in mainline denominations and liberal Catholicism as opposed to the actual Bible-believing fundamentalist type viewpoint. 
- Larry Sanger, UnHerd

How Wikipedia entries are distorted: 

There are companies like Wiki PR, where paid writers and editors will go in and change articles. Maybe there’s some way to make such a system work, but not if the players who are involved and who are being paid are not identified by name — they actually are supposed to be identified by name and say ‘we represent this firm’ if they are officially registered with some sort of Wikipedia editing firm. But they don’t have to do that.
- Larry Sanger, UnHerd

Why is it happening?

Because there is a lot of influence. Wikipedia is known now by everyone to have a lot of influence in the world. So there’s a very big, nasty, complex game being played behind the scenes to make the article say what somebody wants them to say. 
- Larry Sanger, UnHerd

On the takeover of Big Tech

We trusted outlets like Facebook and Twitter and YouTube with our data, and allowed them essentially to take over the media world. What we trusted them with was our liberty and our privacy, that basically that they weren’t going to shut us down. But they stabbed us in the back, essentially.
- Larry Sanger, UnHerd

Why is neutrality important?

You want the tools to think about an issue…When we are trying to get some basic information in understanding a topic, we do not want to be led by the nose, right? We are free individuals who want to make up our own minds.
- Larry Sanger, UnHerd

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Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
11 months ago

I was a great fan of Wikipedia but stopped donating a few years ago when I saw how editorship on anything remotely controversial had been captured by doctrinaire activists, ruthlessly enforcing a line.

J Bryant
J Bryant
11 months ago

Ditto.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
11 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Lord Haw-Haw would have loved Wiki, how it is that voice promoting the enemy.

Jonathan Bagley
Jonathan Bagley
11 months ago

My experience, also.

Ludo Roessen
Ludo Roessen
11 months ago

Same here.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
5 months ago

Same here!

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago

In many ways it was the disillusioned and the dissident who did most to stymie and resist the monolithic advance of communism after the war – Orwell, Popper, Koestler and co. All had recovered or were recovering from the delusions of the Left. In the same way we are, perhaps, witnessing the start of a general break up of the “Woke” monolith – not before time. Liberals are often too feeble, Conservatives too entrenched to get out there and fight the Left properly; but a penitent Leftist brings to the fight all the focus, determination, commitment and grit with which brutal “revolutions” are made and turns them against the evil he has come to know from the inside.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Well said Simon.
I watched a great many Bret Weinstein’s videos (Freddy did him here too), and I think he is that University Lecturer Liberal/Lefty who had the system he help foster turn rabid, and on him, so had his awakening and talks well, and voluminously, against the harm of radical Wokism. He still holds onto the general tenets of his hard Liberalism, but as a bitten person, he has greatly altered his faith.

WIKI is so corrupted, yet usually subtly, I think Wiki shows how the internet has been taken by the dark side.

Last edited 11 months ago by Galeti Tavas
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
11 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Bret Weinstein is a liberal, a huge intellect and a man of integrity. Nothing to fault here. I must correct you about your account of his ‘awakening’. He saw illogic and lack of ethics and morality and spoke out. He did it deliberately. It wasn’t some errant tweet or rash action that saw him ‘exiled’.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
11 months ago

Yes, he did adopt a deliberate stance (over the “whites out” day or whatever it was they were calling it at Evergreen)… and then the institution, students, etc did turn rabid on him.

cicavilhena
cicavilhena
11 months ago

Thank you so much for this excellent revealing interview. Thank you for your courage, Larry Sanger.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
11 months ago

I immediately checked on this and typed in ‘Wikipedia and Ivermectin’ and bingo…. Absolute propaganda and drivel. Quoting Merck as the mouthpiece against Ivermectin for Covid where anyone half informed knows that Merck (with Ridgeback) is completely compromised and has been given $1.2 billion by the US government to develop an anti-viral. They can’t have the off-patent Ivermectin succeed.

Jonathan Bagley
Jonathan Bagley
11 months ago

It’s ok for tallest buildings and longest bridges (I assume), so I find it useful and interesting. My tip, for more controversial topics, is to read the talk page next to the article tab. You see which parts of the article have been fought over, and why?

Andrew D
Andrew D
11 months ago

Thank you, I’d never even noticed that tab. Just looked up ‘woman’ and clicked on ‘talk’ – blimey, there’s a batsh*t debate going on there!

Jonathan Bagley
Jonathan Bagley
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

The Salt and cardiovascular disease WP page is a good example. Read the Talk. Our MPs get their information from these pages. There is a movement to legislate for the saly content in food. WP is a powerful weapon.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
11 months ago

Excellent tip leading to the need to examine more deeply. Ideology often colors truth.

Hugh Eveleigh
Hugh Eveleigh
11 months ago

Another stimulating interview. I fully endorse all that Mr Sanger says and the way he would like to see Wikipedia frame its texts. I stopped paying a small voluntary amount each year as support for it once I researched certain topics when instructing pupils in the use of reference sources in libraries. Ten years ago I made it quite clear that Wikipedia was not, as young people thought, the ‘best’ and ‘most reliable’ and in practice the only source for reference. It was a battle to urge teachers and pupils to stand back and consider just what they were trying to find the answers to. I think for many young school pupils today there is no decision to be made so let’s hope Mr Sanger is right in his suggestion that moves are afoot where no one source gains unwarranted precedence.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
11 months ago

Wikipedia is fine if you’re trying to find out about stuff like the Han Dynasty or the difference between a mizzen sail and a spinnaker, etc. But if there’s the slightest modern sociological or political relevance to be had out of a subject, the Wikipedia article covering it will be garbage. The left poisons absolutely everything it touches.

Last edited 11 months ago by Francis MacGabhann
Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
11 months ago

This is fascinating, but I didn’t come away with a real understanding of how this filtering works!
And I’m sure I was not alone in thinking that UnHerd itself, and Quillette, for example, quite obviously are part of the solution. But they will never have the cultural purchase of Fox or CNN or the Times or the Post or the Guardian. Most people are too lazy to go beyond these outlets.
It should be noted that even a person who immerses him/herself in platforms on both sides — say Fox and CNN — still ends up uninformed because of the tight filter underlying each!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
11 months ago

I am so angry.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
5 months ago

I used to be a contributor and occasional donator to Wikipedia but the last time I tried to write a very non controversial article about a victorian silversmith I got so much flack from the editors I gave up.
No attempt to help me – they just kept deleting parts of an unfinished article.
So long as the cabal of arrogant self appointed editors want to keep their fiefdom to themselves they are welcome to it – not a penny more from me & not another published word.

Richard Lyon
Richard Lyon
5 months ago

Wikipedia has removed its article on mass formation psychosis – the systematic deployment of isolation, heightened anxiety, and the removal of rights for the purposes of strengthening social control of populations.

Ann Roberts
Ann Roberts
5 months ago

Thank you Freddie for reposting this. I so appreciated the calm and insightful presence of Larry. I have been following the World Council for Health calls on a Monday evening. Great for balanced information on COVID and the Vaccine. I was amazed at the number of eminent speakers whose Wiki entries were being edited to take out all their ‘credentials’, to be replaced with conspiracy theory rhetoric. I have stepped away from Wiki. I also am intrigued by the decentralising of the internet and the use of microblogs. Going to explore this. Happy New Year to Unheard. xxx

Last edited 5 months ago by Ann Roberts