Ideological bias on Wikipedia
ideological bias on Wikipedia has been analysed by academics. Collectively the findings show that Wikipedia articles edited by large numbers of editors with opposing views are at least as neutral as other sources, but that articles with fewer edits written by smaller groups of ideologically homogeneous editors were more likely to exhibit bias.
Public opinion[edit | edit source]
Sorin Adam Matei, a professor at Purdue University, said in a 2018 Wired Magazine article that "For certain political topics, there's a central-left bias. There's also a slight, when it comes to more political topics, counter-cultural bias. It's not across the board, and it's not for all things."
Analyses[edit | edit source]
Greenstein and Zhu[edit | edit source]
Shane Greenstein and Feng Zhu, both professors at the Harvard Business School, have authored several studies and articles examining Wikipedia from an ideological standpoint as component of its collective intelligence.
Is Wikipedia Biased? (2012)[edit | edit source]
In Is Wikipedia Biased? (2012), the authors examined a sample of 28,382 articles related to U.S. politics (as of January 2011) measuring their degree of bias on a "slant index" based on a method developed by Gentzkow and Shapiro (2010) to measure bias in newspaper media. This slant index measures an ideological lean toward either Democratic or Republican based on key phrases within the text and gives a rating for the relative amount of that lean. The authors used this method to measure whether Wikipedia was meeting its stated policy of "neutral point of view" (or NPOV). They also examined the changes to articles over time as they are revised. The authors concluded that older articles from the early years of Wikipedia leaned Democratic, whereas those created more recently held more balance. They suggest that articles did not change their bias significantly due to revision, but rather that over time newer articles containing opposite points of view were responsible for centering the average overall.
Do Experts or Collective Intelligence Write with More Bias? (2017)[edit | edit source]
In a more extensive follow-up study, Do Experts or Collective Intelligence Write with More Bias? Evidence from Encyclopædia Britannica and Wikipedia (2017), Greenstein and Zhu directly compare about 4,000 articles related to U.S. politics between Wikipedia (written by an online community) and the matching articles from Encyclopædia Britannica (written by experts) using similar methods as their 2010 study to measure slant (Democratic vs. Republican) and to quantify the degree of bias. The authors found that "Wikipedia articles are more slanted towards Democratic views than are Britannica articles, as well as more biased", particularly those focusing on civil rights, corporations, and government. Entries about immigration trended toward Republican. They further found that "(t)he difference in bias between a pair of articles decreases with more revisions" and, when articles were substantially revised, the difference in bias compared to Britannica was statistically negligible. The implication, per the authors, is that "many contributions are needed to reduce considerable bias and slant to something close to neutral".
Jointly They Edit (2013)[edit | edit source]
A 2013 study, Jointly They Edit: Examining the Impact of Community Identification on Political Interaction in Wikipedia, was conducted by Jessica J. Neff, professor at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and colleagues David Laniado , Karolin E. Kappler, Yana Volkovich, Pablo Aragón, Andreas Kaltenbrunner, all from the Barcelona Media-Innovation Centre. The study was conducted to "take a closer look at the patterns of interaction and discourse that members of different political parties have around information online, because they may have important consequences for the accuracy and neutrality of political information provided online". It investigated how Wikipedians (editors of Wikipedia) identified themselves as affiliated with any political party, whether their participation was divided along party lines, if they had a preference to interact with members of the same party, and how much affiliation impacted conflicts within discussions. The authors identified party and ideological affiliation using "userboxes" which some Wikipedians place on their user pages. The authors concluded:
"Although Democrats and Republicans seem to maintain their political identity within the Wikipedia community, our findings show that users displayed more 'Wikipedia' boxes than political boxes on their user pages, indicating that the identity of being a Wikipedian may be more salient in the context of this community. Further, the lack of preference to interact with same-party members in the context of article discussions does not indicate the same polarization that has been observed in other contexts. In this sense, the Wikipedian identity seems to predominate over party identity. Hence, the results of our analysis show that despite the increasing political division of the U.S., there are still areas in which political dialogue is possible and happens."
The Wisdom of Polarized Crowds (2017)[edit | edit source]
A 2017 study The Wisdom of Polarized Crowds (Feng Shi, Misha Teplitskiy, Eamon Duede, James Evans) investigated the effects of ideological diversity on Wikipedia entry quality scores for political, social issues, and science articles. To accomplish this, the authors estimated editor political alignment on the liberal-conservative spectrum based on their prior contributions and gauged article quality using a MediaWiki tool called "ORES". The authors found that "polarized teams" (a balanced group of editors with diverse political viewpoints) "create articles of higher quality than politically homogeneous teams", "engage in longer, more constructive, competitive, and substantively focused but linguistically diverse debates than political moderates", and "generate a larger volume of debate and their balance of political perspectives reduces flare-ups in debate temperature". They found that homogenous or highly-skewed teams engaged in less, but highly acrimonious, debate which produced articles scoring lower in quality.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Matsakis, Louise (March 16, 2018). "Don't Ask Wikipedia to Cure the Internet". Wired. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
- Gentzkow, M; Shapiro, J. M. (January 2010). "What Drives Media Slant? Evidence From U.S. Daily Newspapers". Econometrica. The Econometric Society. 78 (1): 35–71. doi:10.3982/ECTA7195.
- Greenstein, Shane; Zhu, Feng (May 2012). "Is Wikipedia Biased?". American Economic Review. American Economic Association. 102 (3): 343–348. doi:10.1257/aer.102.3.343.
- Khimm, Suzy (June 18, 2012). "Study: Wikipedia perpetuates political bias". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
- Shi, F.; Teplitskiy, M.; Duede, E.; Evans, J.A. (November 29, 2017). "The Wisdom of Polarized Crowds". (paper). arXiv: .
- Greenstein, Shane; Zhu, Feng (2014). "Do Experts or Collective Intelligence Write with More Bias? Evidence from Encyclopædia Britannica and Wikipedia" (PDF). MIS Quarterly.
- "Is Collective Intelligence Less Biased?". BizEd. AACSB. May 1, 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
- Guo, Jeff (October 25, 2016). "Wikipedia is fixing one of the Internet's biggest flaws". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
- Jessica J. Neff; David Laniado; Karolin E. Kappler; Yana Volkovich; Pablo Aragon; Andreas Kaltenbrunner (April 3, 2013). "Jointly They Edit: Examining the Impact of Community Identification on Political Interaction in Wikipedia". PLoS ONE. 8 (4): e60584. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060584.
- Stevens, Sean (December 21, 2017). "Research Summary: The Wisdom of Polarized Crowds". Heterodox Academy. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
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