The Battle for Wikipedia

Last month, the Washington Times debuted a new weekly column by NewsBusters editor Matthew Sheffield.  Fresh off his latest scoop that “liberals [are] more profane than conservatives,” he returned to the pages of the Times to exhort conservative activists to realize the dangers of Wikipedia and work to counter it by spending more time editing entries to better reflect their right-wing views:

Conservatives seems to be making another critical error regarding the online encyclopedia on the question of political bias. You can’t entirely blame them either, considering that Wikipedia seems to have tilted leftward in a number of cases.

The reason for this is in the editing. Anyone can alter Wikipedia’s entries, in most cases without even bothering to register for an account. What this means in practical terms is that people with enough determination to force their viewpoints on Wikipedia can do so.

Sheffield urges conservative activists not to retreat to the safety of Conservapedia because, well frankly, it’s a joke, and instead head once more into the breach by dedicating hours of their lives online to editing articles until they finally gain control:

Faced with such bias, many people on the right seem willing to retreat from the Wiki Wars, resorting to legal maneuvering to block particularly noxious entries and crying foul about Wiki unfairness. Still others on the right have withdrawn to their own site, Conservapedia.

There is nothing wrong with such efforts, but they are incomplete – incomplete because they fail to recognize that liberal bias at Wikipedia isn’t like bias at ABC or CBS. These institutions are dominated by liberals, true, but their systematic structure is such that the ability for people on the right to push for fairness is severely limited.

That is not the case with Wikipedia, a participatory medium in which those who are most active enjoy the most influence. It’s time for the right to dust off its hands and engage in some old-fashioned activism.