Emails from Hunter Biden suggest that the son of now-President Joe Biden paid thousands of dollars to a public relations firm to scrub his Wikipedia page of several unflattering details about his personal life and business ties.
Paying someone to alter the pages that are presented as fact and often the first result to pop up in a search about a person, place, or thing seems like a practice that should be prohibited. Wikipedia, however, does nothing to stop outside influences from lacing its articles with propaganda. Instead, it has an effectively unenforceable policy that paid editing must be disclosed by the person making the edits.
As previously reported by The Federalist, Wikipedia partners with Big Tech companies like Google to maintain a quiet monopoly on internet knowledge. This power alliance has become increasingly worrisome in recent years since, as Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger recounted in an interview in 2021, “The days of Wikipedia’s robust commitment to neutrality are long gone.”
Any user who wants to manipulate a Wikipedia page to fit his agenda can do that as long as it slips through the company’s host of left-leaning administrators. That is exactly what happened in 2014 when the younger Biden decided he wanted a public facelift.
Investigative reporter Lee Fang discovered via emails found on Hunter’s laptop that the then-vice president’s son paid FTI Consulting to help erase his publicly documented ties to convicted Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford.
“Ryan- below is a start. Eric is my partner and cc’d- he’s going to make additional edits,” Hunter wrote in a May 22, 2014 email to an FTI employee.
Wikipedia edit history shows that, six days after Hunter’s email, anonymous accounts swarmed his page to delete references to Stanford, add accolades, and remove discussion about his position at Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, which also hired FTI to clean up its image.
Fang noted that the page “dramatically changed, with negative references scrubbed, and lengthy passages added to discuss his volunteer work, service in government, and appointments to various boards and political committees.”
“This is back in good shape,” FTI employee Ryan Toohey replied shortly after the edits were complete. He included a link to Hunter’s new and improved Wikipedia page.
Wikipedia discourages “puffery” and meddling from public relations people like the mysterious “AmeliaChevalier” and “sock puppet” account “Earflaps,” which freed Hunter’s page of facts that he believed would blemish his reputation.
Yet, there are dozens of companies that not only make stealthy makeover edits but openly advertise replacing inconvenient facts on Wikipedia pages with self-adulating material.
One quick search of “Wikipedia” “pay to edit” yields hundreds of results (including sponsored content) from companies that shamelessly promote their services as a means to, as website wikimoderator.com put it, “help you fix all the errors & misinformation from your Wikipedia page.”
“Misinformation,” in this case, clearly means any content that is deemed unfavorable by the person the page is about.
PR firms are useful for covering problematic people like Hunter. Where they fail, however, Wikipedia’s increasingly biased keyboard warriors step in.
When news of scandalous findings on Hunter’s abandoned laptop broke weeks before the 2020 presidential election, Wikipedia editors apparently left mention of it off Hunter’s page until well after the election.
Until spring 2022, after corporate media outlets that helped suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story quietly admitted it was completely legit, users who searched the Wikipedia page for information about the laptop were redirected to a “Biden–Ukraine conspiracy theory” article, which mounting evidence suggests is anything but a conspiracy theory.
This was not an isolated instance of ideological bias. It was yet another example of the propaganda that plagues many Wikipedia articles.
The Spin Runs Deep
Nearly 10 years ago, one of Wikipedia’s many crowdsourced editors tried to delete The Federalist’s Wikipedia entry because, according to the user, it “does not pass the threshold for notability.”
To this day, The Federalist’s Wikipedia page is littered with keyboard quarrels between anonymous editors about whether our publication is considered a “reliable source,” if our staff is racially diverse enough, and why our accurate Covid coverage should be deemed “misinformation” or “alleged misinformation.”
“We’re passionate about facts. We care about objective facts, The Federalist appears to care more about ideological Truth&trade,” one editor wrote on The Federalist’s Wikipedia talk page during a debate about how to present our Covid reporting.
“We’re absolutely not passionate about facts,” another editor retorted. “We’re passionate about the opinion of a few journalists from a few select publications. That’s very far from truth, and not a very good way to build an encyclopedia.”
These arguments have earned our publication several “contentious topic restrictions,” which let administrators control how editors and pages can be edited.
Despite numerous documented accounts of anonymous Wikipedia editors submitting requests to fix The Federalist page to accurately represent our reporting, the page’s second paragraph claims our publication “published many pieces that contained false information, pseudoscience, and contradictions or misrepresentations of the recommendations of public health authorities” and “made false claims that there had been large-scale election fraud.”
The Federalist certainly isn’t the only alternative media outlet that has been subjected to Wikipedia’s bias and it won’t be the last.
Wikipedia claims to offer help to curious internet users seeking answers. In reality, it is a cesspool of partisans that enables retroactive scouring by elevating corrupt corporate media outlets as “reliable sources” and downplaying conservative outlets like The Federalist
Sanger was right that Wikipedia is “broken beyond repair” — paid editors or not.