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ANI sues Wikipedia for defamatory content: Read how Wiki works, its historical bias, and how it is weaponised by its left-leaning editors for propaganda

Wikipedia has long been notorious for passing off the personal bias of its highly prejudiced left-leaning editors as facts and weaponising its platform to defame entities that refuse to toe its line and dare to espouse alternate viewpoints.

On 9th July, the Delhi High Court heard the plea of Indian news agency Asian News International (ANI) filed a Rs 2 crore defamation suit against Wikipedia. In its plea, the news agency said that Wikipedia allowed defamatory edits on ANI’s page and it has been portrayed as a propaganda tool for the Central Government. A notice has been issued by the Delhi High Court and the next hearing in the matter is set for 20th August.

On Wikipedia, the ANI page states that the news agency is regularly criticised for acting as a government propaganda tool. The page also accused ANI of distributing fake news and misreporting events. Advocate Sidhant Kumar, who appeared for Wikipedia, argued that as the page has restricted editing access, only Wikipedia’s top editors can make changes to it, making it impossible for ANI to get the defamatory content removed. ANI has contended that selective editing has tarnished the reputation of the news agency and caused public harassment. Kumar said, “This malicious conduct of the Defendants ex-facie establishes their ulterior motives of defaming Plaintiff by publishing false and misleading content against Plaintiff”.

Wikipedia is known for its bias towards non-left news portals, journalists and public figures in India. The so-called “encyclopaedia” that heavily depends on user-generated content is pro-Left and the top editors that oversee the content about India often remove content that goes against their ideology. The aim of having an online encyclopaedia should have been to provide truthful content without any bias which is impossible with the current leadership and army of top editors on Wikipedia.

How does Wikipedia work?

To understand how this biased environment has been created over the years, it is essential to learn how it works. Wikipedia allows any user to edit articles. However, these edits are supposed to be reviewed for quality and adherence to the Neutral Point of View (NPOV) policy. Wikipedia’s NPOV policy mandates that the article should be written without any bias and must represent all significant viewpoints fairly. It also mandates that reliable sources including peer-reviewed journals, reputed news portals and other resources should cited to ensure the truthfulness of the content.

There is a community of volunteers who monitor the articles. They use discussion pages, that are public, to talk about the edits and content sources. There is also a dispute resolution process that aims at maintaining neutrality. Apart from volunteers, Wikipedia has tools and bots to help revert vandalism and enforce formatting standards. All of these features are aimed at ensuring the content is accurate and consistent. However, the powers vested in “volunteers” who are also known as “Wikipedia Editors” and the backend system that works on the platform have been created to remain biased towards a specific section of the people.

Who gets to become top-level editors on Wikipedia?

As mentioned before, anyone can edit pages on Wikipedia, provided they are not restricted to top-level editors. Say there are two individuals A and B who just became registered users on Wikipedia and both have extensive knowledge about their respective fields. They will gain privileges over time based on how many accurate edits they make. Basic users like A and B can become administrators based on their contributions. The point system on the platform decides who climbs the ladder and how quickly it happens.

Initially, users can edit general pages. With gained privileges over time, they can edit semi-protected pages and even more articles. However, when they become administrators, they get additional powers such as protecting pages, blocking disruptive users and deleting articles. Such a hierarchical system aims to ensure that experienced users handle sensitive content and disputes to maintain the integrity of the platform.

However, there is a catch. Say A is a Left-leaning editor and B is a Right-leaning editor. Based on the current leadership of Wikipedia, the chances of A becoming a top-level editor, or the administrator are much higher compared to B. The edits made by B, even if they are accurate and have proper citations included, may get deleted or reverted. It will affect the points gained by B. On the other hand, A will get more chances and the top-level editors will look the other way even if the information provided by A is biased, incorrect or misleading. With time, A will have more chances to become an administrator while B will always live on the edge of either losing editorial privileges or even getting kicked out of the platform.

Allegations of bias against Wikipedia

There are several examples, including that of OpIndia, where Wikipedia shamelessly let misinformation run on its platform about a Right-leaning portal. Wikipedia claims that OpIndia distributes fake news and misinformation. Interestingly, it has sourced Alt News and The Wire to support such claims. Both portals are known for selective bias and distributing misinformation. The Wire itself has admitted it distributed fake news and had to remove reports on Meta and Tekfog.

Source: Wikipedia

Interestingly, while Wikipedia put all the blame for being “right-wing” on OpIndia, on its page on The Wire, it says that “one of its reporters fabricated several news stories and was then fired”. Wikipedia, the innocent encyclopaedia, believes that stories like those on Meta and TekFog did not go through extensive editorial scrutiny before getting published and any Tom, Dick or Harry posing as The Wire’s employee can publish whatever they want.

Source: Wikipedia

Wikipedia’s shameless prejudice is apparent in its page on OpIndia vis-a-vis that of far-left propaganda outlet The Wire. Disgraced for its hitjobs against the Centre, most notably Tek Fog and Meta stories, which it had to pull down ignominiously, The Wire’s disinformation is pinned on the said writer’s lack of journalistic skills, while OpIndia is described with epithets of ‘fake news’ for bringing forth uncomfortable truths and exposing the sham of liberal ‘secularism’ in India, Wikipedia’s double standards are strikingly jarring and reflective of its partisan nature.

Selective deletions

Wikipedia has openly deleted pages of renowned journalists and authors just because they talked in favour of the government. For example, in March 2022, it deleted BJP spokesperson and author Tuhin Sinha and journalist Chaiti Narula after they praised “The Kashmir Files” film. While Tuhin’s profile was restored after he approached the court against Wikipedia, Chaiti’s profile on Wikipedia remains deleted to date.

Wikipedia’s co-founder expressed concerns over the platform’s left-leaning bias

In 2021, Wikipedia’s co-founder Larry Sanger categorically warned the public not to trust the platform. Said that nobody should trust the crowd-sourced online encyclopaedia as it is run by left-leaning volunteers. He said that the site is no longer trustworthy as it does allow content that does not fit the agenda of leftists, and therefore people can’t get a complete view on the topics.

Sanger, who had co-founded Wikipedia along with Jimmy Wales in 2001, said that the platform has betrayed its original mission by only reflecting the views of the ‘establishment.’ In an interview with LockdownTV, Sanger said that he agrees with the view that there are teams of Democratic party-leaning editors who remove content that they don’t like.

Tesla and X’s chief Elon Musk has repeatedly targeted Wikipedia for not holding to the editorial standards. In April 2022, he called out Wikipedia’s bias and its editors’ complicated relationship with facts. While replying to a Twitter user about how he acquired Tesla and built the empire, Musk said, “They say history is written by the victors, but not on Wikipedia if the losing party is still alive & has lots of time on their hands!” Musk was referring to the unavailability of the story behind the acquisition of Tesla, which was a shell company and turning it into a multi-billion dollar venture.

Final words

The lawsuit against Wikipedia by ANI has highlighted once again that the user-generated encyclopaedia has bias and its credibility is questionable. As the case progresses in court, it will show how Wikipedia has deep-rooted issues of bias. Hopefully, it will prompt the stakeholders to rethink their attitude towards editorial powers given to the administrators and top-level editors on the platform.

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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