Lawrence Mark Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, has claimed in an interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald that U.S. intelligence agencies have been manipulating the online encyclopedia for nearly two decades. He believes that these agencies, including the CIA and FBI, have turned Wikipedia into a tool of control for the establishment.
“We do have evidence that … even as early as … 2008 … that CIA and FBI computers were used to edit Wikipedia,” Sanger stated during the interview.
“Do you think that they stopped doing that back then?”
Sanger raised questions regarding the potential infiltration of Wikipedia by intelligence agencies and a shift in its ideological stance.
He noted that he had noticed a gradual alteration in the platform’s content between 2006-2008, particularly concerning controversial topics related to science such as global warming and certain drugs, which exhibited an “over-the-top bias.”
Sanger asked how this could have led to the notion of “truth” being associated with a specific ideology.
“Then I started noticing around 2010 to 2015 that articles on like Eastern medicine and holistic medicine … were so obviously biased,” Sanger continued, suggesting a bias towards Western ideas. “It really got over the top … between 2013 and 2018,” he added.
At the time of the Trump administration, Larry Sanger noted that Wikipedia had become markedly biased. He commented that “no encyclopedia to his knowledge has been as biased as Wikipedia has been”.
Greenwald concurred, indicating a possible correlation between liberal media establishments such as CNN, MSNBC and The New York Times, and Wikipedia’s content.
Furthermore, Sanger highlighted that Wikipedia had officially labelled 80% of major sources of news on the right unreliable; this being a consequence of its abandonment of its original neutrality policy by rank and file Wikipedians.
— Larry Sanger (@lsanger) August 2, 2023
Greenwald observed that between 2005 and 2015, Wikipedia had become a target of “information warfare.” He noted that websites such as Wikipedia held a central position in this conflict.
In response, Sanger suggested using other online encyclopedias like Ballotpedia and Conservapedia instead of Wikipedia; however, he acknowledged that these sites do not appear prominently on Google.
As someone who had formerly supported the Obama administration, Greenwald was familiar with the weaponization of new information tools.
.@Wikipedia is a dominant force in the information ecosystem—largely due to how aggressively it's pushed by Google's search engine.
And controlled by a small number of contributors w/ an appalling pro-establishment bias, it has effectively been forged into a weapon of elites. pic.twitter.com/Q2hFFnDjYS
— System Update (@SystemUpdate_) August 1, 2023
Due to his involvement in whistleblower Edward Snowden’s release of U.S. government secrets, he was subject to political assaults and the use of weaponized propaganda.
This corroborated Sanger’s discoveries which were initially brought forth by Virgil Griffith, a programming student who first revealed evidence of CIA and FBI activities on Wikipedia back in 2007 via a program called Wikiscanner, as per Reuters’ report in the same year.
In 2008, the Huffington Post reported that the CIA and FBI had edited numerous articles, removing incriminating information. For instance, it was found that the CIA used its computers to erase casualty counts from reports on the Iraq War, while the FBI deleted images of Guantanamo Bay and manipulated content related to various subjects.
Further research by Sanger concluded that intelligence agencies sought to further their agendas either by paying influential individuals or by developing personnel within their ranks to manipulate Wikipedia content.