Wikipedia:External criticism of Wikipedia

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Newspaper and journal critiques of Wikipedia may be biased or self-serving.

External publications, such as newspapers and articles in scholarly journals, that criticize Wikipedia may have biases or self-serving motives for their criticisms.

Are publications neutral?[edit]

Many of the publications that are considered to be the most reliable sources under Wikipedia's rules, such as major newspaper and peer-reviewed scholarly journals, assert that they have a neutral stance. Despite these protestations of neutrality, these publications may have a number of biases. Publications that criticise Wikipedia might have an agenda that is not compatible with the latter's goals. A publication that felt that it and Wikipedia are competing for the same audience might wish to disrupt it for self-serving financial reasons (such as by publishing one or more articles they know will cause Wikipedians to start bickering with each other instead of creating or maintaining content). A publication that was ideologically opposed to the very existence of Wikipedia might simply wish to disrupt it.

A publication that is ideologically opposed to some aspect of Wikipedia might want to change Wikipedia in a way that is not compatible with its goals. A publication might, for example, want to push a particular point of view that is not a neutral point of view (such as by claiming that Wikipedia is generally biased or by claiming that those who hold, or who belong to a group of people who are particularly likely to hold, a particular political opinion, or religious belief, ought to be prevented from editing here, regardless of the actual character of their actual editing, if any, of Wikipedia).[1] Wikipedians should, before acting on such criticism, consider whether that criticism might be an attempt to manipulate them.

Even if criticism appears actually or possibly well founded, it may be expressed in an obnoxious manner, such as publishing essentially the same piece of criticism over and over and over again (e.g., repeating stories about the Seigenthaler biography hoax incident) in many frequent articles in a bid to browbeat the community into doing something.[2] Faced with such behaviour, Wikipedians should not allow themselves to be pressurised into doing something drastic or sudden. Wikipedians may wish to consider refusing to do anything to change the criticised aspect of Wikipedia until the media campaign shuts up, in order to teach the critics that we cannot be browbeaten into doing things.[3]

Since discussions about the way in which Wikipedia is run, including discussions about the content of its policies and guidelines, are normally decided by community consensus, criticism in external publications is not necessarily a trump card in such discussions, as the authors of those publications are typically either not members of the community or are not in any kind of privileged position. Wikipedians should take the view that placating the media is not, in of itself, a good reason for changing any aspect of Wikipedia, as that is not one of its goals. Wikipedians should also consider whether such criticism effectively amounts to canvassing.

Where external publications give an actual or alleged problem of Wikipedia a level of coverage that is clearly out of proportion to the actual or alleged problem's actual importance (from the point of view of our aims), this might indicate that the criticism is at least partly motivated by objectives that are not relevant to the aims of Wikipedia.

When assessing the merits of criticism in external publications, Wikipedians should bear in mind that the fact that someone is a professional journalist, an academic at a university, or a government official, or they possess other potentially relevant credentials, does not automatically and conclusively guarantee that their criticism is reasonable or factually accurate, nor even that they are not, in fact, completely nuts.


  1. ^ External publications often have an expressly non-neutral stance.
  2. ^ We consider this type of behaviour a "stuck record".
  3. ^ In practice, the community may have more pressing priorities anyway, such as creating new articles.