WaPo: Wikipedia Political Pages Are Biased - for Not Citing Enough Women

WaPo: Wikipedia Political Pages Are Biased - for Not Citing Enough Women

A Washington Post article published this week criticizes bias in political science articles on Wikipedia. However, rather than attacking the left-wing bias afflicting political articles, the author argues instead the problem is articles not citing enough female authors and academics. The author, Samuel Baltz, boasted of trying to fix this “bias” by expanding coverage of women in political articles, while otherwise celebrating Wikipedia’s “political and ideological neutrality” in its coverage.

The piece comes one week after Fox News reported Wikipedia articles on communism and socialism were whitewashed of atrocities committed by governments that adopted those ideologies. Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger criticized the site’s left-wing bias in the same piece stating neutrality was “long gone” on Wikipedia.

Baltz, himself a political scientist, stated Wikipedia is “widely praised for its success in spreading reliable information about political events.” He further claimed “misinformation is largely suppressed” on breaking news events. While praising the site’s “impressive record of political and ideological neutrality” in his piece, Baltz also claimed, “it has serious biases in its coverage” of political topics. Those biases, Baltz claimed, include focusing too much on wealthy countries and too little on women. Such a narrative is consistent with other corporate media, who praise Wikipedia as a tool against “fake news” yet routinely criticize its “diversity” issues.

One of the main instances of “bias” Baltz identified is many articles on political topics, such as the Electoral College, citing men more than women to an extent he claims is disproportionate to their representation in the political science field. He stated of the dozen academic citations on the Electoral College’s Wikipedia page, only one had a woman as the primary author. Baltz also criticized the article on democracy, stating only 10 percent of the works in the article’s “further reading” section listed a woman as the first author. He cited similarly low percentages for articles on conservatism (11 percent), socialism (3 percent), and dictatorship (0 percent).

Part of why Baltz claims this is a problem is the fact studies suggest Wikipedia can shape scientific literature. He claims groups “underrepresented in academia tend to be missing at an even higher rate on Wikipedia” and together this means “Wikipedia does not just passively reflect biases. It amplifies and reinforces them.” Baltz further criticizes Wikipedia claiming only 20 percent of political scientists with articles are women when 30 percent of political scientists are reportedly women. He raises a similar issue with nearly half of articles on political scientists being Americans.

In order to combat this perceived bias, Baltz states he spent 2020 editing Wikipedia to create or expand articles about female political scientists and increase citations to women on political articles. Under the name “Astrophobe” on Wikipedia, Baltz claims to have created 264 pages about female political scientists. Reviewing severalarticles he claimed, many seem to push the boundaries of notability standards on the site, which require “significant coverage” in secondary sources, evidence of a major impact on an academic field, or holding prominent posts at major academic institutions. One article cited much of its contents to the academic’s own work.

Concluding his piece, Baltz states his efforts only marginally improved the coverage of women on political science topics and increased citations of women even less. He argues more effort is necessary and calls for organized action to expand coverage of women on political topics as well as increase citations of women, noting feminist activistcampaigns to increase coverage of women on other topics. While many progressive critics of Wikipedia push for more efforts favoring women citing an alleged “gender gap” on the site, a study released last year found these campaigns have over-corrected in some areas and tilted content disproportionately towards women.

Just a week prior to Baltz’s Washington Post article criticizing “bias” against women on political articles, Fox News released a report noting significant ideological bias on Wikipedia, something Baltz claims is less of an issue. One of the articles Baltz criticized for not citing enough women, the article on socialism, was found by Fox to be whitewashed of atrocities committed by self-proclaimed socialist governments. This included the socialism article praising the “technological achievements” of the Soviet Union, while referencing “the excesses of Stalin’s regime” without elaborating. A section about Asia left repressive actions in China under Mao unmentioned but did mention Indonesia’s anti-communist mass-killings.

In addition to citing similar whitewashing on Wikipedia’s communism article, Fox interviewed co-founder Sanger about political bias on the site. He told Fox News, “The days of Wikipedia’s robust commitment to neutrality are long gone.” Sanger further stated: “Wikipedia’s ideological and religious bias is real and troubling, particularly in a resource that continues to be treated by many as an unbiased reference work.” Last year, Sanger published a blog post on Wikipedia’s left-wing bias where he analyzed other political articles, such as the pages on Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. In the post, he declared the site’s neutrality policy “dead” on the basis of its left-wing political bias.

While media dismiss political bias on Wikipedia in favor of attacking it over “diversity” complaints, numerous studies and analyses have increasingly found evidence for a political bias on the site. Bias has been evident with editors actively supporting Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and Joe Biden’s 2020 Presidential campaign. Baltz himself is member of a Black Lives Matter group on Wikipedia, which one administrator with special privileges on the site joined by declaring: “You can be one of three things: ally, enemy, or collaborator.”

Relying on this diversity push, editors last year sparked outcry from family and Christian organizations by banning profile pages from expressing support for traditional marriage. The site’s owners also endorsed Black Lives Matter, declaring “no neutral stance” on “racial justice” issues. At the same time, they pushed a left-wing code of conduct requiring, among other things, using “preferred pronouns” on Wikipedia and affiliated sites. The code was approved earlier this month. However, corporate media ignore this increasing left-wing bias and instead rely on Wikipedia as a source of information, even encouraging widespread utilization by Big Tech.

T. D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators. Due to previous witch-hunts led by mainstream Wikipedians against their critics, Adler writes under an alias.

T.D. Adler