Larry Sanger, one of the original founders of Wikipedia, has openly stated that Wikipedia is clearly biased1. Although the free online encyclopedia is good at general information about broad topics, it’s terribly inaccurate for anything political, contentious or controversial. If it wasn’t for section 230 immunity, many of its articles would be subject to claims of libel, defamation and slander23. Recently, several outlets have talked about how the Wikimedia Foundation raises far more money than necessary for its day to day operations, using much of their funding for political actions45.
Wikipedia may still have a lot of valuable information, but it takes effort and skill to maintain your privacy and avoid rhetoric while browsing Wikipedia6. No one should be donating to the Wikimedia Foundation. Their banners are deceptive, and the money they raise fund overtly political, unscientific and biased organizations.
Where Does the Money Go?
Although Wikipedia has grown substantially, in recent years, their server spending has plateaued. In 2020, their costs even dipped lower than what they allocated in 20137. Less than half of the money they raise goes to hosting. Some goes to administration and fundraising, but a large amount of it goes to political organizations that are directly fueling the American culture war. This includes groups that are proponents of the “Intersectional Scientific Method” involving “hyperspace,” “abolishing political systems,” closing immigrant detention centers and closing city jails4.
As of March 2020, the Wikimedia Foundation has amassed $400 million in cash reserves, far exceeding its growth aspirations. It could easily sustain the Wikipedia website for at least 20 years. The website’s administrators and editors are all volunteers. Meanwhile, the Wikimedia Foundation, consisting of 550 employees, has managers who earn between $300,000 and $400,000 a year, with dozens of others employed exclusively for fundraising5.
The Wikiless Privacy Engine
There are a number of frontends that provide a layer of privacy against many large websites and platforms. Nitter is an open source tool for viewing Twitter users, tweets and feeds. Invidious provides similar services for YouTube and Libreddit for Reddit. Since these tools are open source, anyone can run their own copy on their own server. There are also hundreds of public servers run by independent developers. They proxy traffic to reduce Google, Twitter and Reddit’s ability to track individual users. The Privacy Redirect extension for Firefox and Chromium based browsers allows for automatically redirecting requests to these privacy frontends.
Such a privacy frontend exists for Wikipedia as well, known as Wikiless. It’s open source, however the source code for it is no longer available. According to the developers, the Wikimedia Legal Enforcement Team went directly to their code hosting provider (Codeberg) to get the source code repository marked private8910. Although their official instance still seems to be running, the unavailability of the source code makes it difficult for others to create their own Wikiless instances.
Privacy frontends aren’t perfect. Some of them can go down due to heavy traffic. The people who run them may also be tracking people. However, funneling a lot of requests though one of these services does reduce an individual’s overall tracking footprint. Most administrators probably do not keep logs or track users, but even if they do, it may be a worthwhile trade-off to allow an independent admin to track your requests versus one of the big tech companies. Since all these frontends are open source, you can always run your own or even modify the source code to add specific features you’re looking for.
Wikimedia’s Social Network
Jimmy Whales started a social network in 2019 known as WT Social. It has subwikis, each a forum for creating posts that can be contributed to, and edited by, the WT Social community. Unlike Wikipedia, you must have an account to view posts. You can wait for an invitation or pay money to jump the queue. I waited in the free queue and was briefly on WT Social. I used it to post content I thought was interesting, as well as promoting my own posts and website.
Nearly every link to this website, that I posted in the fighting disinformation subwiki, was edited to indicate I was spreading misinformation. Even though all my posts have a full list of sources, users of WT Social criticized my references and belittled my analysis. Shortly after I posted the video of James O’Keefe defending himself against the slander of Wikipedia on Tim Pool’s show2, I was no longer able to log into WT Social.
I assumed I was banned from WT Social. When I attempted to login, I was greeted with a completely white blank page. Password recovery did not work and I received zero notice or indication that I had been banned. Before I lost access to the site, I determined it was the same cesspool of groupthink that permeated the ideological base of Wikipedia’s editors. My attempts to calmly and rationally express a counter argument were met with the same unwarranted bans I experienced on other niche websites. I would not recommend WT Social to anyone, and those who are paying to get in are funding pure garbage.
Tips for Using Wikipedia
If you’re looking up an article for understanding engine design or a type of chemical compound, Wikipedia will likely give you decent information. However, if you’re looking up information for a famous figure or current event, Wikipedia is entirely unreliable for unbiased information. It can still be a valuable resource, so long as you understand its limits and use it skeptically. The following are some important tips for using Wikipedia:
- Use a Wikiless Instance for privacy - As discussed earlier, a privacy filter prevents tracking from Wikipedia and avoids donation banners. Do not donate to Wikimedia. They don’t need your money.
- Always look at the talk page first - The discussion page is always more interesting than the article itself for current events and controversial topics. Here is where you may see editors complaining about bias or discussing improvements that will never make it into the final edits of a page.
- Go through the history - Always look at the history, especially for public figures. I’d suggest going back 5 years, 8 years, 10 years and to the very first version of the article. This is a great way to see how opinions change for certain public figures.
- Always check the sources - For years, I’ve often followed links to sources, only to learn they do not actually reflect the information they are claiming to be a source for. Often you can find a lot more interesting information in the source material than the actual article.
You may be tempted to edit Wikipedia articles to make them more accurate. Good luck. Wikipedia was made by tens of thousands of independent contributors and editors. However, over time, the moderators and janitors of Wikipedia have been very selective about which edits they allow in. In the early 2000s I attempted to edit some pages on technology articles that were marked with a banner indicating they sounded too much like commercial advertisements. I made several careful edits and added sources, and then removed the banner. Weeks later, I saw much of my work either reverted or edited, likely by people in the industry who are paid full time to maintain articles for specific companies and technologies. Editing Wikipedia takes time, energy and building reputation with a growing echo chamber of volunteers who are skewed politically and ideologically in a single direction.
If you want alternative takes on issues; if you want to truly learn about the other side of the argument, it’s going to take some work. Google is not your friend, and even DuckDuckGo has openly stated they would actively down-rank links they consider disinformation in relation to the conflict in Ukraine11. When looking for heterodox, alternative views on topics, consider the following:
- Wikispooks - a wiki that attempts to go beyond the surface for many major events and political figures. It’s been the target of censorship12 around the same time Kiwi Farms was taken down. Its content is nowhere near as comprehensive as Wikipedia, but it’s a great resource for investigating people connected to intelligence agencies.
- Infogalactic - another wiki that uses the same software as Wikipedia, but attempts to take a different approach to their foundation and structure. Like Wikipedia, everything on the site should be scrutinized carefully, but it can still be used as another starting point when investigating contentious topics.
- Corbett Report - Corbett has covered an absolutely insane amount of events, topics and figures in his years on the Internet. This independent Canadian analyst, who currently resides in Japan, has provided a great amount of insight into various figures in the shadows of government, industry and intelligence agencies. His website is a fairly good archive for deep dives into questionable narratives.
- Encyclopedia Britannica - Remember when encyclopedias were physical books that occupied a full shelf in the family library? Remember those salesmen who would try to convince your parents to buy copies of World Book or Britannica, as well as the yearly updates? I’m not saying Britannica would be a more reliable source than Wikipedia. I’m sure it’s filled with many of the same biases of our legacy media. But you might find slightly less biased information, or at least new starting points in your research.
This is not by any means a comprehensive list. It’s just a list of possible starting points when attempting to do real deep dives on delicate topics. The mainstream websites are never going to give you all sides of the story. Truly understanding the nature of our narrative reality requires a lot more work, as well as listening to points of view you may not necessarily agree with. Drilling down alternative websites and search engines can help provide a broad view; challenging the axioms the main stream would push upon us as absolute fact.
Wikipedia Doesn’t Need Your Money
Wikipedia is not a reliable source for any controversial topics or people. It has more than enough donations to sustain itself for several years and does not need your contributions. The excess money it has is used to fund political causes and organizations that promote an emergent post-modernist ideology. It is actively going after open source projects that attempt to shield users from Wikipedia advertisements and tracking. Many of its biographical articles are a cesspool of defamation and slander, protected only by section 230 immunity.
Wikipedia was once a pillar of what could be accomplished by the contributions of thousands of volunteers on the Internet. It boasted higher accuracy than commercially published encyclopedias in the mid 2000s13. However, it has tossed aside any semblance of being unbiased. It’s still a go to source, due to the massive amounts of contributions on a vast array of topics. However, one should be more weary than ever; never assuming anything on the user contributed site to truly be reliable or factual.
Tim Takes On Project Veritas Wikipedia Page, Asks James O’Keefe If He Plans To SUE Over Defamation. 8 October 2021. Timcast IRL. ↩ ↩2
Former Founder Of Wikipedia Says Wikipedia Is BROKEN, Lies Stay Up And There’s No Recourse. 16 April 2021. Timcast IRL. ↩
If you use Wikipedia, you’ve seen pop-ups like this. If you’re like me, you may have donated as a result. Wikipedia is an amazing website, and the appeals seem heartfelt. But I’ve now learnt the money isn’t going where I thought… 11 October 2022. @echetus. Archive. Thread Mirror ↩ ↩2
The next time Wikipedia asks for a donation, ignore it. 12 October 2022. Orlowski. The Post by Unherd. ↩ ↩2
Statistical analysis of Wikimedia Foundation financial reports. Revision 27 April 2022. Wikiversity. ↩
Like so many others I am sickened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the gigantic humanitarian crisis it continues to create. #StandWithUkraine️ At DuckDuckGo, we’ve been rolling out search updates that down-rank sites associated with Russian disinformation.. 10 March 2022. @yegg. (Tweet) ↩
The Wikispooks site has been taken down by legal threat to its domain host. Its editor, my fellow ex British diplomat Patrick Haseldine, says it is over the entry on Tracy Twyman, her investigation into Hollywood paedophilia and her subsequent death. Streisand effect time…. 2 September 2022. @CraigMurrayOrg (Tweet) ↩