Facebook is relying on Wikipedia to help users establish the credibility of news sources even though Wikipedia describes one of the major conservative publications, Breitbart, as “misogynistic, xenophobic, and racist.” At the same time, however, feminist site Jezebel’s entry does not contain a warning about the political nature of its articles.
On April 2, Facebook expanded a feature to accompany news articles shared on its site. The new context feature, first released for beta-testing in October 2017, is designed to provide users with context about an article’s source. The feature, however, relies on information from Wikipedia, which some claim is biased against conservatives.
The feature allows users to click an “i” on a post in their News Feeds to see information about the source if the publisher is using Facebook’s Instant Articles. Facebook also unveiled the ability to view other articles that a particular author has published, as long as the news source has enabled author tags.
Facebook says it is trying to determine whether the new feature will make it easier for users to “evaluate the credibility of an article when we provide more information about the article’s author” — and, presumably, publisher.
Discussions of a 2015 working paper on Wikipedia’s bias in the Harvard Business Review and Kellogg Insight claim that when researchers compared it to Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia has a greater tendency for political bias — and specifically left-wing bias. According to Kellogg Insight:
Greenstein and Zhu measured both the direction and strength of each article’s opinion. They found that overall, Wikipedia’s political articles are more likely to lean “mildly” Democratic—or to slant left—than Britannica’s, and that the extent of the bias in Wikipedia entries is greater.
In 2007, the founder of Wikipedia alternative Conservapedia said Wikipedia is biased against conservatives based on his own experience with the site. According to a Guardian article:
"I've tried editing Wikipedia, and found that the biased editors who dominate it censor or change facts to suit their views," Andy Schlafly, the founder of Conservapedia, told the Guardian. "In one case my factual edits were removed within 60 seconds - so editing Wikipedia is no longer a viable approach.”
On Wikipedia’s Wikipedia page, however, the site claims “All encyclopedic content on Wikipedia must be written from a neutral point of view(NPOV), which means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic.”
As of April 5, when viewing the publisher information Facebook made available for Breitbart, users are prompted statements claiming Breitbart is associated with the alt-right, relies on conspiracy theories, and has content that is “misogynistic, xenophobic, and racist by liberals and many traditional conservatives”:
Left-wing blog Jezebel, which regularly writes inflammatory posts about politics, is merely described as being “geared towards women”:
Considering that Wikipedia’s assumed and anecdotal bias against conservatives (backed up by one study) perhaps Facebook should consider a more objective and less easily edited way of trying to measure a website’s credibility.