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

Freddie Sayers meets Larry Sanger.

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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 is so great 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”.

#wikipedia #covid19 #bias

Written by UnHerd


  1. I changed the height of a Spanish Peak – for shits and giggles!! Bad person I am.. I wasn't allowed to use Wikipedia when I was at Uni…what changed?? I only changed it by a metre, to prove to someone the illusion of facts…Then to be honest I had to change it back, because I felt bad!!

  2. I love Wikipedia. I use it all the time. For "basic" facts and figures about "non-controversial" topics. Like when Archimedes was born, or what is the capital of Ghana. Would I go there to learn the details of Biden's latest controversy, or a discussion of Trump's dealings with Russia, or whether the current vaccines are the best way of dealing with Covid? Of course not. I am not arguing with Mr. Sanger. I am sure he is correct. It's just that everything has its place. If you want Fox News, watch Fox News. If you want CNN, watch CNN. Wikipedia is not either, and to me, never was meant to be.

  3. Wikipedia doesn't need to give you the truth. If you trust any source to do this, you'll end up misinformed. What it can do is provide a lot of evidence for whatever position it decides to endorse. That's still extremely valuable because it can give you a position that is well justified, if not necessarily the most well justified. To find the latter, you'll need to spend a lot of time reading other sources.

  4. I just looked up the Wiki page for Ivermectin and right in the top paragraph it says "During the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation was widely spread claiming that ivermectin was beneficial for treating and preventing COVID-19.[14] Such claims are not backed by sound evidence"

    Yikes. Then later on there's a section on covid that says: "In the United States, the use of ivermectin for COVID-19 is championed by a group calling itself the "Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance" (FLCCC), which says it heads "the global movement to move #Ivermectin into the mainstream." The effort has gone viral on social media, where it has been adopted by COVID deniers, anti-vaccination proponents, and conspiracy theorists."

    That is far from being neutral. Fuck wikipedia. I used to donate to them yearly but I stopped after their stance on the "monkey selfie" issue. I will not donate to them again. I don't believe that all of these people who espouse the mainstream views are being malicious. I believe that they believe that they are doing the right thing, but are caught in some sort of ideological fog that has them justifying behaviour that is absolutely reprehensible, and in this case causing the deaths of millions of people and crippling the global economy. They lost all pretence of being unbiassed though. It's one thing to say that ivermectin looks promising but does not have sufficient body of evidence to substantiate these claims, but it's another thing entirely to equate them with conspiracy theorists etc. The last five years I have removed all hope I had for humanity being smart enough to figure shit out. A lot of people say that the average person is smart, and I think those people are insane. People are unbelievably stupid. I don't care how much you can regurgitate from a textbook to get your fancy Ivy League degree if you can't even form basic thoughts in an objective manner.

    I hate to say it but YouTube is the best of the bunch. At least they allow things that are critical, and things that are critical of YouTube. There are tons of videos on here of people who discuss things that Facebook removed. That Twitter removed. YouTube is dreadful for neutrality, but they are by far the best of the big tech bunch, sadly enough.

  5. I use to see Wiki disclaimers at the top saying that the content was not objective enough. I don't see that as much now, and of course not on the Joe Biden page that is heavily editorialized. The page itself should not make claims. It should only reflect facts and cited opinions in a way that is not editorializing.

    Trump's page says: "Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump's election chances, but the special counsel investigation of that interference led by Robert Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to establish criminal conspiracy or coordination of the Trump campaign with Russia."
    So there was not sufficient evidence and Trump was cleared, yet Russia definitely interfered?  Funny how the Biden page says "Trump and his allies falsely accused Biden of getting the Ukrainian prosecutor……" despite the evidence, yet these two things are not given the same treatment even though the Trump one was a formal deep investigation.  Wiki is an absolute joke now when it comes to anything controversial or political.  Notice how cofounders of things like Wiki and Greenpeace over and over come out and leave and say that the thing they cofounded lost its way and was overtaken by radical ideology, and the people saying this seem very calm and rational?  Why do we not listen to the ones who leave and speak out?

  6. If I were to tell you that the moon was made out of cheese, would you believe that? Of course not. But now, if I tell you it's made out of sand… Maybe. If I tell you I know for sure? Then I would believe you. So you know that the moon is made out of sand. – Yes. – But it isn't. I only said I knew because you said you knew. I lied. Knowledge isn't truth. It's just mindless agreement. You agree with me. I agree with someone else. We all have knowledge. We haven't come any closer to the truth of the moon. You can never understand anything by agreeing… by making definitions. Only by turning over the possibilities. That's called thinking. If I say I know, I stop thinking. As long as I keep thinking, I come to understand. That way, I might approach some truth. That's the best conversation I ever had. Is it over? I think it had better be.

  7. I was raised on, among others, phrases such as, "There are three sides to every story. Yours. Mine. And the truth's."
    And, "When you catch a person inn a lie, you will forever question everything else they will say."
    Is Wikipedia warning you that every country except North Korea has a reverse mortgage with the IMF?
    Is it telling you that the previous leader of the Ukraine refused to pay his IMF debt and 2 days before he was overthrown, Joe Biden called him telling his to play along.
    But he was stuck between a rock and Putin.
    They were squeezing him to open access to Europe and Ukraine NG.
    (Hmm, the very topic being discussed. I write this before and as they were talking about Ukraine, which is about Joe. Hunter is the sexy distraction.
    Plato's view point. Only certain people allowed to make any decision.)
    So they overthrew him and less than a month later offered the Neo-Nazi's who took over an 18 billion dollar loans.
    Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all violate Deuteronomy 4:2 and Deuteronomy 13, making them all apostate.
    Only Luke 1:33. That is the only legitimate church.
    You are either in covenant with Yeshua, or not. Only two camps.
    House of Jacob, or Babylon.
    And only the House of Jacob that doesn't violate Deuteronomy 4:2 and 13.

  8. What's always intrigued me about Wikipedia is how mathematical topics often start off very technical and gradually get dumbed down. I would never think of looking at it for a political topic, but then we are post 1984.

  9. I've definitely seen the same flaw in Wikipedia's policies that Sanger does: the reliance on secondary sources means that if journalists don't want to acknowledge something, they can prevent Wikipedia from ever documenting it. Sure, they defend this policy by talking about how journalistic articles have been thoroughly checked by an editor, but what is that editor really incentivized to edit for?

    Well, they want to cover their asses, so there is some focus on truth, but after that they want clicks. It's not uncommon to hear about an editor who pushed an article to sound more inflammatory than its author would have liked. Readers don't click on stories that are difficult or complicated; it feels so much better to have someone eloquently write something that matches exactly how you feel (UnHerd readers aren't immune to this by the way).

    And then you factor in political conformity at these publications. Many journalists are leaving for SubStack because they feel their publication is pressuring them to espouse different views. Wikipedia strongly discourages the use of their articles as sources because they're now self-publishing. Does anyone honestly think that the quality of these journalists' writings goes down so much as to disqualify them from Wikipedia? It's absurd, but (afaik) that's exactly what their policy suggests.

  10. Interesting topic. Nice interview. I always saw Wikipedia as a helpful source of uncontroversial factual information. For anything controversial or with a lot of interpretation I never found it to be reliable. His point about it being a propaganda tool is sadly true. I wonder if “neutrality” is a realistic goal though

  11. I lost faith in wikipedia when I went to make updates to correct an article and they were erased, reverted, and the article was locked. Basically, someone controls what it says and that's the end of it.