Much has been made of Silicon Valley’s liberal bias — and for good reason.
Facebook was caught suppressing topics related to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the Drudge Report, and others. The social media giant’s content curators acted “subjectively” to prioritize left-leaning news sources at the expense of their right-leaning counterparts.
And Facebook is hardly alone.
According to a recent Vice Media report, Twitter has often engaged in so-called “shadow banning,” whereby company officials suppress certain Republican accounts on the social media platform’s search function.
In Vice’s words: “The Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel, several conservative Republican congressmen, and Donald Trump Jr.’s spokesman no longer appear in the auto-populated drop-down search box on Twitter.”
The issue of liberal bias became so apparent it prompted meetings between social media executives and congressional Republicans.
But little has been made of another influential platform’s own troubling history of political bias. I’m talking about Wikipedia, the user-driven encyclopedia that attracts roughly 500 million unique visitors and 18 billion page views a month.
If the Internet is our most valuable source for information, then Wikipedia is perhaps its most substantive vessel — in fact, it is one of the five most popular websites in the world. Wikipedia houses millions of articles on topics of interest, servicing all sorts of curious researchers.
Unfortunately, Wikipedia is not immune to the pervasive liberal bias that has plagued Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies. If anything, it is an avid practitioner.
While the Washington Post has dubiously branded Wikipedia as “the ‘good cop’ of the Internet,” the website’s editors routinely flood right-leaning pages with adversarial content, not to mention preventing such pages from going up in the first place — or removing them once they do.
I speak from experience. Wikipedia recently deleted a page about me, which I’ve kept an eye on for months since it first graced Google Search. Apparently, I wasn’t a public-enough figure for the liberal editors of Wikipedia.
Wikipedia decided my legal expertise and extensive public activities — which warrant inclusion on Ballotpedia’s platform — did not warrant a Wikipedia page that countless lawyers currently call their own, despite their far less notable public presence.
What’s the reason for the unfair treatment? My work supporting President Trump or conservative causes writ large may have something to do with it. The same goes for my opposition to broader restrictions on political spending — I have little sympathy for the misleadingly named “campaign finance reform” agenda.
Whatever the reason, the deletion of the page about me reinforces Wikipedia’s longstanding reputation of liberal bias.
In 2014, researchers from Harvard Business School and the Kellogg School of Management concluded the website is a “bit more left-leaning” than Britannica.
The researchers found a statistically significant preference for “Democratic terms” such as “war in Iraq,” “civil rights,” and “trade deficit,” claiming they outnumbered Republican terms like “illegal immigration” and “border security.”
The Heartland Institute, a right-leaning think tank in Illinois, is a case study in liberal bias. The think tank accused Wikipedia of replacing “objective descriptions” of its programs and publications with “lies, errors, and outright libelous claims.”
Discrepancies between conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s page and her left-wing counterpart Michael Moore’s tell a similar story. The same can be said for pages associated with Glenn Beck, founder of TheBlaze, and Keith Olbermann, a particularly extreme Trump critic. Over time, liberal bias became such a concern that right-leaning dissidents created Conservapedia in 2006.
Internet ‘Hijacked’ By The Left?
To see the Internet — one of mankind’s most transformative innovations — become hijacked by the Left is a sad sight for any supporter of free speech. I defend the First Amendment for a living and, as I testified before the Federal Election Commission, online speech has expanded our political discourse in ways I thought unimaginable a decade ago.
But to police speech in a blatantly subjective manner is to undermine the First Amendment, and threaten our rights to engage with those who agree and disagree with us. Censorship is the first step on the road to tyranny, and today’s censor is the liberal clicktivist mob.
From Facebook and Twitter to Wikipedia, the Internet is no place for discrimination on political grounds. It is a place for liberals, conservatives, and everyone in between to come together — no fine print included.
Backer is a veteran campaign counsel, having served more than 100 candidates, PACs, and political organizations. He is founding attorney of political.law.