Wikipedia editors voted to ban Breitbart as a source of fact in it articles. The consensus, reached late last month, agreed that the outlet “should not be used, ever, as a reference for facts, due to its unreliability.” Wikipedia editors also decided that InfoWars is a “conspiracy theorist and fake news website,” and that the “use of InfoWars as a reference should be generally prohibited.
Breitbart, a far-right conservative media website, has come under scrutiny—such as when it vehemently supported Alabama politician and alleged pedophile Roy Moore, when it shilled for scam cryptocurrencies through its newsletter, or when it fueled racist narratives about black NFL players. Wikipedians decided that because fact checkers have found much of Breitbart’s coverage to be “misleading, false or both,” they won’t abide it as a source of fact anymore.
“We have something over 2,500 links to Breitbart, many of them as sources in articles,” the editor who nominated the rule wrote in the vote. “I think that Breitbart is not a reliable source [...] It's my view that we should not source anything to Breitbart other than strictly factual and uncontroversial facts about Breitbart on the articles related to Breitbart and its people.”
The ensuing discussion about whether Breitbart should be considered a factual source went on for dozens of comments, many of them impassioned. But, overwhelmingly, editors believed it should be banned except when used as a source to attribute opinions or relevant commentary. It has been “deprecated” for English articles, and will no longer be used as a reliable source for facts on the English version of the online encyclopedia.
“There is a very clear consensus here that yes, Breitbart should be deprecated in the same way as the Daily Mail,” Wikipedian Fish+Karate, a Wikipedia administrator, wrote in a post announcing the change.
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“Longstanding reputation for publishing utter falsehoods, fabrications and blatant distortions about living people it opposes, and having no meaningful fact-checking structure in place whatsoever,” another editor wrote about Breitbart. “Completely inappropriate for Wikipedia.”
In February 2017, Wikipedians made a similar call for Daily Mail citations—that the publication would no longer be cited in articles as fact, due to its “reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication.” In April, when Facebook started marking fake news stories as fake with a popup linking to Wikipedia as a fact-checking reference, Breitbart claimed that Wikipedia “is notorious for its bias, editorial unaccountability, and unreliable articles.” In fact, Wikipedia is incredibly stringent about fake news and its editors are obsessive about accuracy (that doesn’t mean Wikipedia is always correct, but mistakes are generally fixed quickly.) In addition to Facebook, YouTube is also relying on the work of volunteer Wikipedia editors to fact-check its conspiracy theory videos.
Last week, Wikipedia editors held a similar vote for Occupy Democrats, a progressive website. As it’s a political activist movement outlet, and not a reliable news source, it can’t be cited on Wikipedia as fact.
They also started a discussion for InfoWars’ reliability, but the vote was closed, citing the “Snowball Clause,” that no sane editor would cite InfoWars in the first place (giving it a “snowball’s chance in hell” that it’d be used and left up on the site except in exceptional cases.) In any case, InfoWars is also generally banned from being a source on the site.
Wikipedia currently classified InfoWars as a “conspiracy theorist and fake news website. It is a generally unreliable source. The use of InfoWars as a reference should be generally prohibited, especially when other more reliable sources exist. InfoWars should not be used for determining notability, or used as a secondary source in articles.” InfoWars is also on the Wikimedia global spam blacklist.
Soon after Breitbart was banned, Wikipedia editors began making a master list of all Breitbart citations on the site that are opinion-related, so that those could be protected and other instances of Breitbart serving as a source of facts could get deleted.
“Every second spent removing content which can only be sourced to Breitbart is well spent,” one editor wrote in support of the new rule.
Breitbart did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent via its media form. We will update this post if we hear back.