AllSides has not rated the bias of Wikipedia, despite previously rating them Center prior to March 2021. AllSides changed Wikipedia's rating to Not Rated after considering that the encyclopedia does not fit neatly into our bias rating methodologies, which were developed for news sites. Here, we detail third-party data and claims that Wikipedia has a left-wing bias. You can vote on what you think the bias of Wikipedia is above.
Table of Contents
- Third Party Analyses Find Wikipedia Has Left-Wing Bias
- Previous AllSides Media Bias Rating for Wikipedia
- About Wikipedia
Third Party Analyses Find Wikipedia Has Left-Wing Bias
Many have accused Wikipedia of having a left-wing bias, including its co-founder Larry Sanger, who conducted his own bias analysis of the website. Wikipedia has been accusing of failing to mention the crimes of communist and socialist regimes, employing left-wing bias in its decriptions, using mostly left-wing media outlets in its sourcing, and of being more likely to sanction conservative editors.
"The days of Wikipedia's robust commitment to neutrality are long gone," co-founder Larry Sanger told Fox News in Feb. 2021. "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."
In his bias analysis of Wikipedia, co-founder Sanger wrote:
Wikipedia’s “NPOV” is dead. The original policy long since forgotten, Wikipedia no longer has an effective neutrality policy. There is a rewritten policy, but it endorses the utterly bankrupt canard that journalists should avoid what they call “false balance.” The notion that we should avoid “false balance” is directly contradictory to the original neutrality policy. As a result, even as journalists turn to opinion and activism, Wikipedia now touts controversial points of view on politics, religion, and science.
He gives numerous examples, noting President Barack Obama’s article mentioned none of his Administration’s scandals, but scandals on President Trump’s page were extensively documented. He also wrote:
Wikipedia can be counted on to cover not just political figures, but political issues as well from a liberal-left point of view. No conservative would write, in an abortion article, “When properly done, abortion is one of the safest procedures in medicine,” a claim that is questionable on its face, considering what an invasive, psychologically distressing, and sometimes lengthy procedure it can be even when done according to modern medical practices.
To pick another, random issue, drug legalization, dubbed drug liberalization by Wikipedia, has only a little information about any potential hazards of drug legalization policies; it mostly serves as a brief for legalization, followed by a catalog of drug policies worldwide. Or to take an up-to-the-minute issue, the LGBT adoption article includes several talking points in favor of LGBT adoption rights, but omits any arguments against.
Sanger also notes numerous instances of bias in articles on Jesus Christ, stating that "Wikipedia’s claims are tendentious if not false, and represent a point of view that many if not most Christians would rightly dispute."
Five Studies That Find Left-Wing Wikipedia Bias
Some have pointed to 5 studies, including 2 from Harvard researchers, that show a left-wing bias at Wikipedia:
- One Harvard study found the articles are more left-wing than Encyclopedia Brittanica.
- Another paper from the same Harvard researchers found left-wing editors are more active and partisan on the site.
- A 2018 analysis found top-cited news outlets on Wikipedia are mainly left-wing.
- Another analysis found that pages on American politicians cite mostly left-wing outlets (AllSides Media Bias Ratings™ were used to assess this).
- American academics found conservative editors are 6 times more likely to be sanctioned in Wikipedia policy enforcement.
In an analysis article on Wikipedia's left-wing bias, Fox News notes, "The two main pages for "Socialism" and "Communism" span a massive 28,000 words, and yet they contain no discussion of the genocides committed by socialist and communist regimes, in which tens of millions of people were murdered and starved."
Wikipedia’s Socialism page announces: "The Soviet era saw some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century."
It ignores a man-made famine in which Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin commandeered the food from regions like Ukraine and Kazakhstan, leaving millions to starve to death even as the Soviet Union exported grain to foreign countries.
Asked for comment, a Wikimedia Foundation spokesperson sent a statement noting that "Wikipedia is a living, breathing project, and is always evolving just as our shared understanding of a topic does." The response also noted that the foundation does not directly control content on Wikipedia, which is written by volunteer editors. The statement did not address any specific criticisms of the content.
The Wikipedia socialism page also mentions China’s Communist history, but only begins its description in 1976, after Mao Zedong’s reign of terror had already killed tens of millions.
"After Mao Zedong's death in 1976... China's economic performance pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty," the encyclopedia says.
The article fails to mention Mao’s prior communist programs such as his "Great Leap Forward", in which private farming was abolished, leading to mass famine that killed tens of millions.
It also neglects to mention Mao’s "Cultural Revolution", in which, according to the History Channel, "Millions of young radicals who formed the paramilitary Red Guards shut down schools, destroyed religious and cultural relics and killed intellectuals and party elites believed to be anti-revolutionaries."
Fox News also notes that "the two main Socialism and Capitalism [Wikipedia] pages also fail to note any of the atrocities committed by other socialist and communist regimes, from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Cambodia, or North Korea, among others."
Some, such as a former Wikipedia editor writing for Breitbart News, have pointed to 5 studies that demonstrate Wikipedia's left-wing bias.
One analysis used AllSides Media Bias Ratings™ to check the bias of Wikipedia sourcing. It found that "articles on American politicians tended to rely on left-wing media. Based on AllSides ratings, 33,000 sources used were left-wing with 44,000 being left-wing based on MBFC ratings. Right-wing sources were shown to be more rarely used with such sources being cited less than 10,000 times according to either rating site. Centrist sources were used more often and closer to the number of times left-wing sources were used. Neither ratings site has rated all of the outlets cited on Wikipedia, while some ratings differ between the two sites."
A study from Harvard Business School found that Wikipedia was more left-biased the Encylopedia Brittanica. Researchers Greenstein and Zhu examined articles covering U.S. politics on Wikipedia and compared them to similar articles in Encyclopedia Britannica. They looked at word choices more consistent with left-wing and right-wing views respectively, and found articles on Wikipedia tended to show greater left-wing bias.
A subsequent study by these researchers and an additional researcher examined the bias of active Wikipedia editors; it found they tended to be more left-wing and more partisan than their right-wing counterparts.
"However, the researchers also concluded many editors moderate their bias in editing the more they edit and thus over many years left-wing editors moved towards a more neutral stance somewhat more quickly," Breitbart noted in its coverage of the study. "One flaw in the study is it excludes editors who made over 950 edits in a year, which excludes many of the site’s most active partisans."
Another analysis looked at Wikipedia sourcing and found that "establishment left-leaning outlets such as the and BBC News, each cited in around 200,000 articles, were often the most-cited news sources. The left-wing Guardian was the third most-cited outlet with almost 100,000 articles citing the outlet. Among the top ten outlets cited in Wikipedia articles, only one was right-leaning."
An analysis using AllSides Media Bias Ratings™ found articles on American politicians tended to rely on left-wing media. According to Breitbart: "Based on AllSides ratings, 33,000 sources used were left-wing with 44,000 being left-wing based on MBFC ratings. Right-wing sources were shown to be more rarely used with such sources being cited less than 10,000 times according to either rating site. Centrist sources were used more often and closer to the number of times left-wing sources were used. Neither ratings site has rated all of the outlets cited on Wikipedia, while some ratings differ between the two sites."
In a piece for Critic, a British magazine, American academics found that Wikipedia editors whose contributions favored the right-leaning perspective were more likely to be sanctioned in “arbitration enforcement,” cases where special site administrators can impose restrictions on editors.
Previous AllSides Media Bias Rating for Wikipedia
Prior to March 2021, AllSides rated Wikipedia as Center. We changed Wikipedia to Not Rated after considering that the encyclopedia does not fit neatly into our bias rating methodology, which was developed for news sites. We became aware of the accusations of Wikipedia bias, and decided to move the website to Note Rated until we could devise a better way to rate them within our system.
Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia project based on an openly editable model. The name "Wikipedia" is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning "quick") and encyclopedia. Wikipedia's articles provide links to guide the user to related pages with additional information.
Wikipedia is frequently used and cited by AllSides when conducting media bias-related research.
Since its launch in 2001, it has become one of the world's most-trafficked websites.