Throughout June, Wikipedia activists have been conducting an “edit-a-thon” started by a newly-established Black Lives Matter group on the site, creating large amounts of content on “racial justice” issues. Among their efforts, editors have got numerous articles on racism or alleged police brutality to appear on the front page with several articles having already been featured, including one smearing President Donald Trump and one promoting a book pushing “white guilt” on readers.
Black Lives Matter activists further pushed for expanding Wikipedia articles about individual police departments and police unions with claims of racism and misconduct. Unrelated efforts have other articles appearing on the front page to advance an “anti-racism” agenda regarding George Washington and Trump.
Following George Floyd’s death in police custody, Wikipedia editors established a “Black Lives Matter” WikiProject to coordinate activities regarding articles on racism and policing. Many group members have a history of left-wing bias on the site with one administrator, Guy Chapman, declaring: “You can be one of three things: ally, enemy, or collaborator.” Chapman and others have pushed biased changes to articles about protests over Floyd’s death and the violent far-left Antifa group. Wikipedia’s owners, The Wikimedia Foundation, have indulged such behavior by endorsing Black Lives Matter and stating there is “no neutral stance” on racial justice.
One of the first actions launched by the Black Lives Matter group on Wikipedia was an “edit-a-thon” covering the entire month of June. Edit-a-thons are events where editors on the site commit to making a large number of contributions regarding a given topic. Many edit-a-thons are specifically geared towards “diversity” initiatives, such as those responding to the alleged gender gap on Wikipedia. The Black Lives Matter edit-a-thon is claimed to be about improving “articles on topics relating to racism, racialized violence, and the African diaspora more widely” so as to “counter Wikipedia’s systemic bias.”
Among suggested contributions for the edit-a-thon, efforts are listed for getting newly-created or expanded articles on Wikipedia’s front page in its “Did you know” section. One such article on the phrase “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” appeared on the front page of Wikipedia on June 23rd. Trump used the phrase in response to widespread violence during Floyd protests. Wikipedia’s article on it was created in response to controversy over Trump’s comments. During its front page appearance, the phrase’s usage was cast in a racial context even extensively documenting people making different yet comparable remarks in such context. Trump’s usage was portrayed with a negative slant.
The phrase’s article was nominated to appear on the front page by editor “Sdkb” who has since promoted the Black Lives Matter WikiProject on Wikipedia’s Signpost newsletter. It was approved for the front page by editor “Wugapodes” who started the Black Lives Matter edit-a-thon. Wugapodes also approved a front page nomination for Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad, a book pushing white guilt similar to White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. The page’s front page nomination was submitted by editor “Bilorv” and the page appeared there on June 19th. Bilorv is also a participant in the edit-a-thon and the Black Lives Matter group.
Bilorv has reviewed other front page nominations related to the Black Lives Matter edit-a-thon. While not immediately approving the front page nomination for an article about a 2016 police shooting, he mostly cited technical issues such as needing better sourcing. In reviewing a front page nomination for an article about bail funds, Bilorv did cite minor issues. However, he also claimed the article complied with Wikipedia’s “neutrality” policy, despite it being heavily geared towards criticism of the bail process and the justice system and citing various advocacy groups as sources. The editor nominating the page was another member of the Black Lives Matter group.
Connections between those nominating articles for front page appearances and those approving nominations are not unprecedented. A controversy previously erupted on Wikipedia in 2012 in connection with the Wikimedia UK chapter. In that controversy, a project called Gibraltarpedia came under fire when articles about Gibralatar repeatedly appeared on Wikipedia’s front page as part of a prize contest with participants rewarded for each appearance and Wikimedia UK members often approving nominations. After a Wikimedia UK trustee was found to have been paid by Gibraltar’s government for the project, concerns were raised about paid editing, a practice plaguing Wikipedia.
One other front page appearance connected to the Black Lives Matter edit-a-thon involved an article on “the talk” black parents reportedly have with children about interactions with police, which appeared on the front page on June 21st. Several nominations from members of the Black Lives Matter group have not had articles appear on the front page, such as one on the “defund police” demand many protestors have made. A number of nominations by Bilorv regarding books on racism have so far gone unapproved, though slow movement on front page nominations is normal.
Nominations unrelated to the Black Lives Matter group and edit-a-thon also resulted in recent front page appearances advancing an “anti-racism” agenda. This includes an article on the college basketball’s historic Game of Change, when a white team played against a black team during segregation, which appeared on the front page along the article on Saad’s Me and White Supremacy book. The same day of June 19th, promoted as the holiday “Juneteenth” honoring the Emancipation Proclamation, the article on George Washington and slavery appeared in Wikipedia’s “Today’s Featured Article” section, the most prominent part of the front page.
In addition, an article scheduled to appear on the front page July 4th concerns Trump’s walk to St. John’s Church following the dispersal of Floyd protestors in Lafayette Square. Wikipedia’s page derisively characterizes it as a “photo-op” and slants heavily against Trump, even citing more Republicans criticizing him than supporting him despite most expressing support. The planned line for the article’s front page appearance claims that before the “photo op” police “used chemical irritants” in dispersing a “peaceful” protest, though protests there the previous night included arson at St. John’s and protestors attacking fencing and Secret Service agents protecting the White House.
Featuring articles on the front page is not the only step advocated during the Black Lives Matter edit-a-thon. In a list of tasks for improving or creating articles related to racism and policing, the edit-a-thon page includes suggestions on how to add on to existing articles. The suggested additions include going through articles on individual police departments to add “neutral” material on “notable use of force incidents” and adding “neutral” coverage to articles on individual police unions regarding their “positions and advocacy related to use of force and reform efforts” with a BuzzFeed article attacking police unions as the cause of “police brutality” provided as a potential source.
Wikipedia’s left-wing bias has been noted even by its own co-founder, though the site continues to be relied on by Big Tech as a reliable source of information. Studies have further noted Wikipedia shapes scientific literature and Breitbart has previously reported news outlets and academic textbooks have copied extensively from Wikipedia’s biased article on the GamerGate anti-corruption movement in gaming. Despite their immense influence, the owners of Wikipedia with their endorsement of Black Lives Matter and push for a “code of conduct” signal an even further drift from the “neutrality” the site claims as a core policy.
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.