In an interview Thursday for Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger stated he was embarrassed about helping found the site given its increasing left-wing bias. Noting it helps shape the understanding many Americans have of the world, Carlson asked Sanger what could be done to fix the problems on Wikipedia, but Sanger doubted it was possible to fix the site from the inside. He instead argued for creating alternative sources, noting his most recent effort: the Encyclosphere.
Sanger also apologized to those individuals whose reputations have been harmed by Wikipedia because of his role in founding it, though Carlson also noted Google’s role in promoting the site. Carlson himself has been one subject of smear campaigns on the site.
Over the past year, Sanger has repeatedly criticized Wikipedia for left-wing bias, stating its neutrality was “dead” and its commitment to it “long gone” in blog posts and interviews. He noted how differently articles about Donald Trump and Barack Obama covered scandals in their presidential administrations, as well as how scandals involving Joe Biden have been covered. Sanger also criticized coverage of religious and scientific topics as pushing a liberal or establishment view. Recently, he stated that the site has become “an opponent of vigorous democracy” and could no longer be trusted to give anything other than a left-wing or establishment view, mentioning the site’s ongoing purge of conservative media. Fox News itself is discouraged as a source on politics.
At the beginning of Carlson’s segment on Wikipedia, he commented that, in the years since Sanger ceased involvement with Wikipedia, it “has gone on to become the world’s single most important source of history — of information about the world” and it was therefore “a problem that we ought to pay attention to when Larry Sanger himself says that Wikipedia is no longer a reliable source of honest information.” He noted Sanger “says the editors of Wikipedia use highly politicized sources and block dissenting news outlets from contributing” adding “once again, that’s a problem for all of us.”
Discussing the site with Sanger, Carlson noted how many people who use Wikipedia will have times when they “know some facts that are somehow not in this entry” or recognize when articles are “playing up something that doesn’t seem to be true” as well as when pages are highly politicized and asked what explains this situation. Sanger explained that since Wikipedia allows anonymous contributions by anyone and is a popular source of information online there is a “natural incentive for governments and corporations, spies, even criminal operations to basically learn how to play the Wikipedia game.”
He stated this made how the site really works opaque and the ultimate result was “establishment views are the ones you find pushed.” Reiterating past criticisms, he stated Wikipedia “has completely abandoned the neutral point of view.” Carlson expressed his concerns about this because “Wikipedia shapes this country’s understanding of the world. It is the primary source of information for a lot of people I would probably say most people, actually, about history.”
Carlson stated there was a need to fix it and asked how it could be done. Sanger replied that he did not “know if there is a way to fix Wikipedia within Wikipedia.” Describing the site as resistant to change, he instead pressed for alternative sources. Calling for a “new knowledge commons” online, Sanger explained his Encyclosphere project, inspired by the blogosphere. He stated the idea is to create a network of encyclopedia articles that could be easily searched so people would not have to depend on Wikipedia with a rating system so people could find the best articles from their own point of view on every subject.
Ending the segment, Carlson remarked to Sanger: “It must kill you as one of the people who founded Wikipedia, which has become this central part of our culture of our intellectual life, weird as it is to say, to watch what has happened to it.” He asked how Sanger feels about his “role in creating this thing that misleads the country” to which Sanger stated he was embarrassed. Sanger noted he has been a leading Wikipedia critic for over a decade and tried various things to improve on it. Sanger added he was “sorry to all the people whose reputations have been sullied by what I got started 20 years ago.” Carlson noted to Sanger that “Google has helped a lot by promoting Wikipedia” in response.
Google and other Big Tech companies have heavily relied on Wikipedia in recent years to address “fake news” online, urged on by praise for the site from corporate media. Many conservative groups and figures have been the subject of smears that were then spread through online platforms that use Wikipedia in their services. Carlson himself has been repeatedly smeared on Wikipedia with editors accusing him of racism or being an “apologist” for Russia due to his criticism of discredited claims Trump colluded with the country to rig the 2016 election. Some even sought to rationalize an Antifa attack on Carlson’s home, while censoring violent aspects of the incident.
Wikipedia’s influence goes beyond its use by Big Tech as media and academia have also been found relying on it for information, sometimes allegedly plagiarizing the site’s contents. Many times this has spread hoaxes originating on Wikipedia. Aside from Sanger’s criticism, studies and analyses have also demonstrated a left-wing bias exists at the online encyclopedia. Sanger himself has been harshly attacked by Wikipedia editors over his criticism as some have branded him a “conspiracy theorist” and even “antisemite” in response to his discussion of the site’s left-wing bias.
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.