Wikipedia is the most popular source of written information in the world. It is the third most popular non-search engine site on the web, bested only by Facebook and YouTube. In other words, it can be a potent ideological force.
And it has been. The site's administrators recently banned 16 users from editing any article related to global climate change. One user, William Connolley - also an active member of the UK Green Party - had been editing misinformation and propaganda into Wikipedia articles since 2003.
Energy Probe executive director Lawrence Solomon wrote in December 2009:
Connolley took control of all things climate in the most used information source the world has ever known – Wikipedia. Starting in February 2003, just when opposition to the claims of the band members were beginning to gel, Connolley set to work on the Wikipedia site. He rewrote Wikipedia’s articles on global warming, on the greenhouse effect, on the instrumental temperature record, on the urban heat island, on climate models, on global cooling. On Feb. 14, he began to erase the Little Ice Age; on Aug.11, the Medieval Warm Period. In October, he turned his attention to the hockey stick graph. He rewrote articles on the politics of global warming and on the scientists who were skeptical of the band. Richard Lindzen and Fred Singer, two of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, were among his early targets, followed by others that the band especially hated, such as Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, authorities on the Medieval Warm Period.
All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it — more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley’s global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.
As NB's Matthew Sheffield wrote at the time, "Such a horrendously biased and obsessed individual should not be allowed to decide what is neutral or fair, the ostensible guiding principle of Wikipedia."
Just this week, Wikipedia followed through on its commitment to that principle - in this instance at least - by banning Connolley from creating or editing any articles having to do with climate change.
Connelley's work on Wikipedia - in addition to the work of the 15 other users banned - had turned Wikipedia into a bastion of left wing misinformation on the climate change issue. The decentralized nature of Wikipedia makes it difficult to combat concerted efforts to maliciously alter content.
Efforts to hijack Wikipedia pages bear a striking resemblance to plots unearthed by the so-called ClimateGate scandal of last year, which revealed that scientists were knowing falsifying or omitting information that undermined their climate change findings.
While Connolley was ostensibly concerned with scientific truth, his Wikipedia campaign smacks of a very unscientific effort to distort the truth to promote a specific political agenda.
Connolley complained to the New Yorker in 2006 that Wikipedia "gives no privilege to those who know what they’re talking about." But neither does the scientific method. You must prove your point if you want authority, not the other way around. Presumably, if anthropogenic global warming is "settled science," as Connolley and so many others claim, one need not lie to argue that case.