The California-based Wikimedia Foundation is the funding and control center that operates the highly influential but controversial Wikipedia online encyclopedia, which for years has ranked among the top 10 most-visited websites in the world. Hundreds of millions of dollars from far-left foundation grants and individuals over the past decade — as well as a bias among senior editors — have led Wikipedia to routinely favor liberal views and smear opponents.
The foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization controlled by a board of directors, paid officers, and a staff of nearly 200 that manage Wikipedia’s administrators. The officers are responsible for directing general content policies and managing all 80,000 volunteer contributors, editors, as well as millions of one-time or occasional contributors. Wikipedia itself has no separate legal status and is thus not incorporated nor recognized by the IRS. The Foundation provides the servers and electricity, dedicated design work and research, as well as the legal and technical support needed to operate Wikimedia’s eight global Wiki projects.
Wikipedia advertises itself as “the world’s largest collaborative free knowledge project” and among “the world’s most popular web properties,” but critics condemn the site for its notorious edit wars and political bias that scrub all criticism of the left and smear the right. For instance, Wikimedia has added its anti-technology, anti-corporation, and anti-free enterprise philosophy to the profiles of many individuals and organizations, particularly on contentious issues such as climate change.
Wikimedia Foundation boasts of its transparency, yet its own profile page on Wikipedia is an empty redirect page pointing to a long Frequently Asked Questions list that reads like a blatant yet evasive self-promotional screed and does not provide the solid, detailed who-what-when-where reportorial information of other Wikipedia foundation entries such as those of the Ford Foundation or the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Wikimedia Foundation has had three executive directors in the two years from 2014 to 2016, Sue Gardner (resigned 1 May, 2014), Lila Tretikov (resigned 25 February, 2016) and Katherine Maher from June, 2016). The Foundation remained in turmoil, which rendered its elaborate Wikimedia Foundation 2015/16 Annual Plan unreliable.
Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation evolved from Bomis, Inc., a for-profit digital company best known for supporting the creations of free-content online-encyclopedia projects Nupedia and Wikipedia. Bomis was founded in 1996 by Jimmy Wales and two others. Bomis’ primary source of revenue was from selling advertisement space on the Bomis.com search portal. Bomis owes its success to its eventual focus on adult, X-rated media.
Bomis created Nupedia as a free online encyclopedia with content submitted by experts and a tedious, slow review process. Wikipedia was initially launched by Bomis to provide content for Nupedia and was a for-profit venture as a Bomis subsidiary through the end of 2002. Wales incorporated the Wikimedia Foundation to fund and manage Wikipedia as a Florida non-profit organization on June 20, 2003 but its IRS Tax Exemption Determination Letter was not dated until April 2, 2005.
The Foundation moved to San Francisco, California and reincorporated on September 2, 2008. The left-wing clout of its new trustees and paid leadership from Silicon Valley soon began to conflict with its grassroots volunteer content providers, editors and administrators. Large foundation grants from far-left funders such as the Tides Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation resulted in growing left-wing influence over its content. Editorial vandalism done to right-wing pages soon became epidemic.
In September 2015, Wikimedia covertly accepted $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in order to create a “Knowledge Search Engine by Wikipedia” that provides “reliable and trustworthy public information.” The search engine will likely reflect Wikipedia’s left-wing biases under the cover of providing “reliable and trustworthy” information, especially on social issues and controversial issues, such as climate change.
Students are regularly told to regard Wikipedia as “only the first stop in searching for information.” Indeed, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, agreed in 2006 that Wikipedia is an unreliable source of information for students. Yet the site’s entries are often the first results in Google searches, which the way most of the world begins to learn about a subject.
What the public gets, according to critics across the political spectrum, in information that is inaccurate and biased. Jamie Bartlett, a columnist for The Independent newspaper in Great Britain revealed in an April 16, 2013 column that his friend got away with fabricating the inventor of the butterfly stroke in swimming. “There it happily stayed for more than two years and no one – not even [a] journalist who quoted it – noticed anything was awry.”
Liberal Robert Verkaik of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, wrote a piece in August 2007 titled “Wikipedia and the Art of Censorship” and declared ”nothing it publishes can be trusted.” Verkaik wrote:
“The chance to rewrite history in flattering and uncritical terms has proved too much of a temptation for scores of multinational companies, political parties and well-known organisations across the world.”
New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo in November 2013 examined Wikipedia’s entries on a subject he knew well: New York City real estate. His conclusion about Wikipedia was “believe nothing it says about anything.” Cuozzo wrote:
“It’s no secret Wikipedia’s often bonkers. Teachers warn students, and editors warn reporters. Even so, the myth endures that it’s a viable research tool that “usually” gets it right, even if a touch of skepticism occasionally comes in handy.
“But I tested that premise on some familiar Big Apple landmarks. Chelsea Market, the food hall that occupies the ground floor of a giant office building at 75 Ninth Ave., is called a ’22-building complex’ — misleading at best and absurd by any normal English-language reading. The former Nabisco factory was cobbled together from a bunch of smaller buildings generations ago — but it’s a technicality unlikely to help tourists searching for the food hall’s nonexistent 21 other locations.
“Wikipedia knows that Tavern on the Green closed in 2009, but not much else: It says the Crystal Room “features windows overlooking” gardens, blithely unaware that the Crystal Room was demolished three years ago. …
“It’s chilling because so many people — young journalists especially — look to Wikipedia first. They not only shun print reference sources, they even balk at scouring the Web for information if it entails, God forbid, clicking on more than a single link. …”
Tom Simonite, the San Francisco Bureau Chief of MIT Technology Review, wrote in October 2013 about how Wikipedia had evolved into an exclusive club that eshewed contributions from outsiders and independent experts — the opposite of Wikipedia’s founding mission to democratize information. Simonite wrote in “The Decline of Wikipedia”:
“Wikipedia inherited and embraced the cultural expectations that an encyclopedia ought to be authoritative, comprehensive, and underpinned by the rational spirit of the Enlightenment. But it threw out centuries of accepted methods for attaining that. In the established model, advisory boards, editors, and contributors selected from society’s highest intellectual echelons drew up a list of everything worth knowing, then created the necessary entries. Wikipedia eschewed central planning and didn’t solicit conventional expertise. In fact, its rules effectively discouraged experts from contributing, given that their work, like anyone else’s, could be overwritten within minutes.”
He added his thoughts about how the public should regard the accuracy and fairness of Wikipedia entries:
“When the topic of quality comes up, anyone affiliated with Wikipedia often points out that it is ‘a work in progress.’ But such caveats aren’t very meaningful when the project’s content is put to use. When Google’s search engine puts Wikipedia content into a fact box to answer a query, or Apple’s Siri uses it to answer a question, the information is presented as authoritative. Google users are invited to report inaccuracies, but only if they spot and then click an easy-to-miss link to ‘feedback/more info.’ Even then, the feedback goes to Google, not to Wikipedia itself.”
In response to concerns about Wikipedia being used for self-promotion, spreading of harmful falsehoods, and potential libel lawsuits, the Foundation in 2009 gave veto-and-approval power to some 20,000 volunteer “expert editors” who monitored pages of living people and active organizations. This move, more than any other, ensconced a liberal/left-wing bias to Wikipedia – to the point of scrubbing nearly all other viewpoints.
This policy has also led to the creation arcane rules that make it exceedingly difficult for anyone who has not been intimately involved in the left-leaning, utopian Wikipedia community to make accurate edits that will remain published. Although foundation leaders claim they exhibit no control over published content, they have “topic-banned”and fired extremist edit-warring administrators.
Sue Gardner, named one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes in 2012, is the former executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation (2007-2014). She is a hard-left ideologue who has had substantial influence on the biased tone and aggressive scrubbing of accurate facts that differ with the left-wing narrative. Justin Haskins of The Heartland Institute wrote at Somewhat Reasonable in May 2015:
In addition to serving on Wikimedia’s Board of Trustees, Gardner has held a leadership position with the “nonpartisan” Sunlight Foundation (SF). SF has been funded by numerous left-wing organizations, such as the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundation and the Knight Foundation. SF even received $1 million in 2010 from the left-leaning Rockefeller Family Fund.
Also connected to SF is Wikipedia founder and Wikimedia Board of Trustees member Jimmy Wales, who serves on the SF Advisory Board. Wales is not only connected to leftist groups through his role at the Sunlight Foundation, he also has close personal ties to multiple left-wing bigshots. Wales even attended one of George Soros’ birthday parties, according to The New York Times.
Other Wikimedia Board of Trustees members have less extravagant ties to leftist causes but still openly admit they support such causes and politicians. Guy Kawasaki, Wikipedia’s “internet evangelist,” announced his support of Barack Obama on Election Day in 2012.
In one of her blog posts, Wikipedia board member Phoebe Ayers lamented that she had “white privilege” and reminisced about rifle-carrying “rednecks,” to whom she referred as “drunken yokel[s],” whose proximity she had to endure while growing up in the South. In another post, she applauded Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) for her “stands on the environment … and women’s issues” and worried someday the “unthinkable” might happen in California: A Republican could get elected.
In 2011, FrontPageMag writer David Swindle examined how Wikipedia entries describe polarizing political figures from the left and the right – and found sections detailing “controversies” among right-leaning figures were vastly longer than those of left-leaning figures:
Consider Ann Coulter versus Michael Moore. Coulter’s entry (on August 9, 2011) was 9028 words long. Of this longer-than-usual entry, 3220 words were devoted to “Controversies and criticism” in which a series of incidents involving Coulter and quotes from her are cited with accompanying condemnations, primarily from her opponents on the Left. That’s 35.6 percent of Coulter’s entry devoted to making her look bad. By contrast, Moore’s entry is 2876 words (the more standard length for entries on political commentators), with 130 devoted to “Controversy.” That’s 4.5% of the word count, a fraction of Coulter’s. Does this mean that an “unbiased” commentator would find Coulter eight times as “controversial” as Moore?
Swindle also examined the Wikipedia entry for Che Guevara – the first item that results in a Google search for hero of the radical left – and found “the 12,707 word entry features a single paragraph with 235 words of criticism – a modest 1.8 percent rate. This suggests that a Marxist revolutionary who commanded the guns executing the ‘enemies of the revolution’ after the fall of Havana is far less controversial than Ann Coulter.” Similarly, Swindle reported, the entry for radical leftist Noam Chomsky “has the most detailed and respectful entries of any political commentator. And as of mid-August 2011 his page had an even higher level of protection than most living persons: a lock logo with the warning that the profile could not be edited by unregistered or new users.”
As of August 2016, the Wikiipedia entry for Al Gore is more than 9,000 words, but the “personal life” section has no mention of a 2006 incidenct in which Gore allegedly made unwanted sexual advances on a Portland masseuse, and the 442 words under the heading “criticism” concerns only his environmental activism that the editors allow his supporters to quickly dismiss.
Wikipedia’s entries on corporations are also largely biased and paint them in the most-negative light possible. New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo wrote in 2013 that Wikipedia is “unbalanced to the point of defamation about corporate America. The entry for admittedly controversial Monsanto is no balanced history of a Fortune 500 company with 22,000 employees, but an indictment — even including a long section on Monsanto’s supposed role in driving farmers in India to commit suicide.”
Other examples of anti-Conservative bias from Conservapedia, a project designed to correct the bias of Wikipedia:
Wikipedia has long been biased against climate realism, and pushes as fact the hypothesis that human activity is causing a climate crisis – a narrative not supported by an unbiased examination of the peer-reviewed scientific data. In fact, Wikipedia entries routinely call scientists who question the dogma of anthropogenic global warming “deniers,” a purposeful slur intended to link them with Holocaust deniers. The site’s anti-realist slant is hardly a surprise considering Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales in 2008 launched a site called “Wikia Green” with the goal of “building the best resource for our citizens of the Earth to learn about the environment and how to live a more sustainable life.”
The site’s editors, for many years, have not permitted a balanced viewpoint on the subject, taking down nearly every amendment that even casts some doubt on the “consensus” on climate change. National Review columnist Lawrence Solomon noted his difficulty trying to correct an obvious error – which he received first hand from the source, who did not endorse a claim in the entry for Naomi Oreskes. Solomon’s correction was removed multiple times. Solomon wrote in 2008:
“I made the changes again, and this time confirmed that the changes had been saved. But then, in a twinkle, they were gone again. I made other changes. And others. They all disappeared shortly after they were made.
“Turns out that on Wikipedia some folks are more equal than others. Kim Dabelstein Petersen is a Wikipedia “editor” who seems to devote a large part of his life to editing reams and reams of Wikipedia pages to pump the assertions of global-warming alarmists and deprecate or make disappear the arguments of skeptics.
“I soon found others who had the same experience: They would try to squeeze in any dissent, or even correct an obvious slander against a dissenter, and Petersen or some other censor would immediately snuff them out.”
Solomon also noted that the source of this ban on non-alarmist entries – or even minor-and-warranted factual corrections – was William Connolley, a member of the British Green Party who was the most-powerful editor of Wikipedia’s climate entries from 2006-2009:
“And yet by virtue of his power at Wikipedia, Connolley, a ruthless enforcer of the doomsday consensus, may be the world’s most influential person in the global warming debate after Al Gore. Connolley routinely uses his editorial clout to tear down scientists of great accomplishment such as Fred Singer, the first director of the U.S. National Weather Satellite Service and a scientist with dazzling achievements. Under Connolley’s supervision, Wikipedia relentlessly smears Singer as a kook who believes in Martians and a hack in the pay of the oil industry.
“Wikipedia is full of rules that editors are supposed to follow, and it has a code of civility. Those rules and codes don’t apply to Connolley, or to those he favors.”
Other examples of bias against non-alarmist scientists and experts on climate change can be found here.
In 2015, left-wing activists hijacked The Heartland Institute’s profile at Wikipedia. It is obvious, from the vigorous back-back-and-forth on the page’s “talk page” at Wikipedia, that they targeted Heartland for extra scrutiny because of the organization’s position as “the world’s most prominent think-tank promoting scepticism about man-made climate change.” Heartland’s page has been edited exponentially more than other right-leaning think tanks with larger budgets and staff, such as the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the American Enterprise Institute. Of the more than 1,800 total edits of Heartland’s page, nearly half of them came in 2015 and 2016, after leftist activists started their campaign.
Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast wrote in response to the attacks in February 2016:
Supporters of Heartland will be surprised to learn that we “worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question or deny the health risks of secondhand smoke and to lobby against smoking bans,” that we “support climate change denial,” or that our decision to spin off our work on finance and insurance into the R Street Institute is characterized as the “resignation of almost the entire Heartland Washington D.C. office, taking the Institute’s biggest project (on insurance) with it.”
These are simply lies, meant to damage our reputation and effectiveness in the most important public policy debates facing the nation. But the editors of Wikipedia refuse to remove these libelous claims, and over time have allowed them to proliferate.
You can read a detailed rebuttal of Wikipedia’s lies of commission and omission here.
In September 2015, the Knight Foundation awarded Wikimedia a $250,000 grant from for work to “advance new models for finding information by supporting stage one development of the Knowledge Engine by Wikipedia, a system for discovering reliable and trustworthy public information on the internet,” according to a document uploaded by Wikimedia.
After denying the Foundation’s interest in building a search engine, a leaked memo suggested that it was looking at creating a “commerce-free” search engine. The resulting row resulted in the resignation of Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Lila Tretikov.
The existence of the Knowledge Engine, now known as “Wikimedia Discovery,” was news to the Wikipedia editors’ community, who claimed the project’s covert nature and very existence are fundamentally at odds with Wikimedia’s transparent ethos. Critics say the project showcases a disconnect between the Silicon Valley-led foundation and the volunteer community that keeps the foundation’s flagship running.
There’s been increasing alienation of the community from the foundation…The community is this volunteer group that is made up of people who largely buy into Wikipedia for ideological reasons. Then you have the foundation, which has increasingly fewer people from the community and a larger Silicon Valley contingent that comes from a tech background. It seems like there’s been a culture clash…and this is the most destructive manifestation of that culture clash.
Perhaps most significantly, Wikimedia did not share these proposals with the Wikipedia community and instead moved forward with a project that will cost at least $2.5 million over at least six years. The search engine project was not mentioned in Wikimedia’s public annual planning documents. The Wikimedia Knowledge Engine with its opinion-based “reliable and trustworthy” search criteria threaten any dissent or non-left viewpoint with extinction by keeping such results from open-minded and unsuspecting searchers.
See the Wikimedia Foundation Muckety Map for an interactive view of the foundation’s social network.
(2014 Salaries listed when available):
Total 2014 officers’ compensation: $1,377,574
Planned Fiscal Year 2015-2016 management and governance cost: $1.2 million
Tax status: Wikimedia Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity. It was incorporated in St. Petersburg, Florida June 20, 2003 and reincorporated in the state of California upon moving to San Francisco on September 2, 2008.
Source: IRS Forms 990 and the Foundation Search databank
Employees and Volunteers
People who represented the Wikimedia Foundation Inc. and have also worked in a congressional office:
The Wikimedia Foundation’s IRS Form 990s from 2003 through 2014 show that all contributors, including undisclosed private individuals and anonymous donor advised funds, gave a total of $196,836,954 including recorded foundation grants of $26,518,670. The top fifteen recorded donors are among the most notably far-left foundations in the United States with substantial grants going to organizations in the climate change movement, anti-industry regulatory lobbying groups, and inside collaborators with Environmental Protection Agency federal advisory committees.
The Top Fifteen: