Wikipedia: A Disinformation Operation?

MEDIA, 13 Mar 2023

Swiss Policy Research - TRANSCEND Media Service

Is Wikipedia an open encyclopedia or a covert disinformation operation?

March 2023 – Wikipedia is generally thought of as an open, transparent, and mostly reliable online encyclopedia. Yet upon closer inspection, this turns out not to be the case.

In fact, the English Wikipedia with its 9 billion worldwide page views per month is governed by just 500 active administrators, whose real identity in many cases remains unknown.

Furthermore, studies have shown that 80% of all Wikipedia content is written by just 1% of all Wikipedia editors, which again amounts to just a few hundred mostly unknown people.

Obviously, such a non-transparent and hierarchical structure is susceptible to corruption and manipulation, the notorious “paid editors” hired by corporations being just one example.

For instance, in 2015 a German Wikipedia administrator was exposed as a project manager at pharma­ceu­tical company Merck who was whitewashing Wikipedia articles on Merck’s history and products. Yet despite the exposure, the manager remained a Wikipedia administrator.

In another case, a German journalist and PR consultant used several pseudonymous Wikipedia accounts to protect French pharmaceutical corporation Sanofi-Aventis against negative studies.

Already in 2007, researchers found that one of the most active and influential English Wikipedia administrators, called “Slim Virgin”, was in fact a former British intelligence informer.

Also in 2007, researchers found that CIA and FBI employees were editing Wikipedia articles on controversial topics, including the Iraq war and the Guantanamo military prison.

More recently, another highly prolific Wikipedia editor, going by the name of “Philip Cross”, turned out to be linked to British intelligence as well as several mainstream media journalists.

In fact, Wikipedia accepts almost only mainstream media outlets as “reliable sources”, while independent media outlets, regardless of their quality, remain largely excluded.

In Germany, one of the most aggressive Wikipedia editors was exposed, after a two-year legal battle, as a political operative formerly serving in the Israeli army as a foreign volunteer.

The Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs has long been known to coordinate activists in various countries who edit Wikipedia and other websites according to Israeli interests, and former Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, previously organized courses in “Zionist editing” of Wikipedia.

In 2023, it became known that the government of Saudi Arabia managed to install sixteen agents as administrators of Wikipedia; the agents not only controlled articles on political topics, but revealed the identities of two independent administrators to Saudi authorities – who put them in jail.

Even in Switzerland, unidentified government employees were caught whitewashing Wikipedia entries about the Swiss secret service just prior to a public referendum about the agency.

Many of these Wikipedia personae are editing articles almost all day and every day, indicating that they are either highly dedicated individuals, or in fact, operated by a group of people.

In addition, articles edited by these personae cannot easily be revised, since the above-mentioned administrators can always revert changes or simply block disagreeing users altogether.

The primary goal of these covert campaigns appears to be promoting establishment and industry positions while destroying the reputation of critics. Because of this, German watchdog group Wiki Radar described Wikipedia as “one of the most dangerous websites on the internet”.

Articles particularly affected by this kind of manipulation include medical, political, and certain historical topics as well as biographies of non-compliant academics, journalists, and politicians.

Indeed, many Wikipedia manipulators belong to a group called the “Skeptics”, an obscure organization that is “skeptical” of people challenging official establishment narratives. Former German intelligence chief Dr. Helmut Roewer described the group as a “cult-like criminal organization” whose members serve as “cyber warriors” for corporate and political interests.

During the coronavirus pandemic (2020 to 2022), members of the “Skeptics” organization played a leading role in enforcing official, but mostly wrong narratives and defaming dissident researchers and journalists on Wikipedia. As one member put it, “the skeptics will always run Wikipedia”.

On the complex topic of global climate change, too, the “Skeptics movement” is investing a lot of time and energy to assert the official view and vilify dissenting researchers and authors.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, a friend of former British PM Tony Blair and a “Young Global Leader” of the World Economic Forum, has repeatedly defended these operations.

Speaking of Davos, Wikimedia has itself amassed a fortune of more than $160 million, donated in large part not by lazy students, but by major US corporations and influential foundations.

Former Wikimedia CEO, Katherine Maher (2016-2021), previously worked at the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) as well as at a subgroup of the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a CIA front organization specialized in global influence operations and regime changes.

Moreover, US social media and video platforms are increasingly referring to Wikipedia to frame or combat “controversial” topics. The revelations discussed above may perhaps help explain why.

Back in 2013, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed how spooks manipulate online debates, and in 2019 a senior Twitter executive turned out to be a British Army “psyops” officer. In 2023, the Twitter Files showed how various US intelligence agencies censored the social media platform.

To add at least some degree of transparency, German researchers have developed a free web browser tool called WikiWho that lets readers color code just who edited what in Wikipedia.

In many cases, the result looks as discomforting as one might expect.

WikiWho / WhoColor (source)

Wikipedia about SPR

In May 2020, a Wikipedia article about Swiss Policy Research was created. The German version, written by well-known activists like “Ghormon”, “KurtR” and “Anidaat”, consists mainly of negative media reports about SPR. Most of the English version was written, anonymously, by one Mason Pelt, an FBI informant (InfraGard) and “Skeptic” from Dallas who specializes in “online marketing”. Other editors include a Hungarian Skeptic (“MrFringilla”) and a US political activist (“Gobonobo”).


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Swiss Policy Research, founded in 2016, is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit research group investigating geopolitical propaganda in Swiss and international media. SPR is composed of independent academics that for personal and professional reasons prefer to protect their identities, and receives no external funding; there are no financial sponsors or backers. Our articles have been published or shared by numerous independent media outlets and journalists, among them Julian Assange, and have been translated into more than two dozen languages.

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