Big Tech companies like Facebook and YouTube would like users to believe Wikipedia is the ultimate objective source of information.
But a recent hack proves that contention false. On conservative organization PragerU’s Wikipedia page, the logo was changed to a more vulgar claim. Under the PragerU was the phrase “Short Penises. Pig Ineas.” The original slogan was “Short Videos. Big Ideas.”
Google uses Wikipedia to fill in information in the Knowledge Panel when someone searches for a term. Any sort of Wikipedia hack could be disastrous to a company or an organization on Google.
While the hack was changed a day later, the damage remains. Tech companies rely on Wikipedia to provide context for news articles. Facebook pulls Wikipedia information in its descriptions of news sites and article sources. YouTube uses Wikipedia to fight what it calls “disinformation.
The problem with Wikipedia, as seen in this instance, is that literally anyone can edit information to say whatever they want to. Even without the vulgar comment on PragerU’s page, a heavy dose of liberal commentary can be found. In the section labeled, “Reception,” PragerU’s videos are criticized by left-wing academics. Princeton History Professor Kevin Kruse calls one video a “distortion” of history, “an exercise in attacking a straw man.” An ADL fellow, Mark Pitcavage, writes that another video is “agreeable to white supremacists.”
Crowdsourcing information and then presenting it in an authoritative fashion can be problematic at best. In a 2015 Vice interview, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger said that “Wikipedia never solved the problem of how to organize itself in a way that didn’t lead to mob rule.”
This is not the first time that a Wikipedia page was hacked. President Trump’s page had his picture swapped with a vulgar image of a man’s genitals in 2018. When the California GOP’s page was hacked, the ideology was changed to “Naziism.” This was prominently displayed on the Google Knowledge Panel for the California GOP.