Wikipedia Blacklists Newsmax Following Post-Election Popularity Boost

Turkish officials say Wikipedia failed to remove content deemed to be false from its pages that linked Turkey with terror groups
AFP/Lionel Bonaventure

Newsmax has seen growing audiences at its online and televised news platforms since the disputed 2020 Presidential election amid President Donald Trump’s criticism of other conservative media coverage. After a Wikipedia editor suggested having the outlet treated as reliable, other editors responded by having Newsmax banned from use as a source for factual claims instead, partly citing its coverage of election fraud allegations, making it the latest conservative outlet banned on Wikipedia in an ongoing purge.

Audience growth for Newsmax accelerated this month as conservative media audiences turn against more establishment organs such as Fox News over their coverage of the disputed nature of the 2020 election. Fox and other establishment outlets called the election for former Vice President Joe Biden even as President Donald Trump’s campaign pursues legal challenges over alleged voting improprieties. Trump has responded by attacking Fox and encouraging a switch to Newsmax or One America News. As Newsmax seeks to capitalize on this interest, Fox reportedly has sought to stifle them by blacklisting guests who appear on the competitor.

Due to the recent surge in popularity, one editor started a discussion arguing Newsmax’s reliability should be upgraded from its then-unclear status. Within minutes an editor responded with an inflammatory rant and instead called for Newsmax to be “deprecated” as a source, referring to outlets prohibited from use as sources for factual claims. The only cited evidence for Newsmax being unreliable was a report by the left-wing Media Matters group about a Newsmax-associated newsletter that inadvertently published anti-vaccine marketing material in an e-mail to subscribers.

Shortly afterward, editor Paul Lee also called for banning Newsmax as a source. Lee has regularly participated in discussions pushing for bans on conservative media outlets and is also the primary author of the article on the Steele dossier, which informed the debunked hoax claiming Trump colluded with Russia to rig the 2016 election, where material is slanted in favor of treating the discredited document as reliable. As more mostly left-wing editors weighed in to call for a ban over the following hours, the discussion was changed to a formal ban discussion.

Editors “Aquillion” and “MastCell” made the most influential comments calling for banning Newsmax. Both editors are known for advancing left-wing agendas on Wikipedia, MastCell being an administrator with special privileges on the site. In each of their comments, they cited studies and reports they claimed showed “reliable” sources considered Newsmax to be an egregiously unreliable source. Under Wikipedia’s reliable sourcing and verifiability policies, the quality of any source is generally judged based on what competing sources report about it.

One study they both cited mentioned Newsmax spreading a claim later found to be false, but the study also noted outlets considered reliable on Wikipedia, such as BuzzFeed News and the left-wing New Republic, had spread the claim. Another study they each cited credited Newsmax with popularizing the term “anchor baby” in political discourse about immigration, but there was no suggestion the outlet reported anything inaccurate. They each also cited a study listing Newsmax as a “junk news source” yet the study labeled Mediaite and New York Daily News the same way, both sources considered reliable on Wikipedia.

Aquillion separately cited a study calling Newsmax a “misinformation source” yet the study also labeled Huffington Post one as well, though the outlet is considered generally reliable on Wikipedia save mixed views on its politics coverage. MastCell cited news articles from CNN and the left-wing Guardian reporting Newsmax’s willingness to cover election fraud claims, but CNN never accused Newsmax of reporting false information and the Guardian only criticized a host’s opinion commentary for minor inaccuracies. Wall Street Journal coverage of a distribution network displaying Russian state-owned RT articles on Newsmax web pages was also cited, though the RT articles were not republished content and Newsmax was unaware RT was included.

MastCell also cited a Daily Beast article reporting Newsmax was one of several outlets that included opinion pieces from a network of fabricated individuals who backed the agenda of the United Arab Emirates. As with other cases, outlets considered reliable on Wikipedia such as the Jerusalem Post and South China Morning Post, were also fooled by the network. The same article was cited to support declaring the Post-Millennial unreliable, alongside false smears from Antifa of Andy Ngo, an editor for the outlet.

In the ban discussion, editors eagerly cited MastCell and Aquillion’s votes in support of their own. However, several editors pointed out the various flaws with the sources they cited, including one editor who still voted to declare Newsmax unreliable. Some editors did also vote for treating the outlet as reliable, while others challenged ban arguments without voting. Despite the issues with ban arguments, predominantly left-wing editors supporting Newsmax being banned from use as a source for factual claims overwhelmed the discussion and it was closed in favor of a ban in just over a week.

Contrasted with the treatment of the Newsmax discussion, which was closed in an accelerated procedure as most such discussions stay open a month, more left-leaning outlets such as CNN and MSNBC have had discussions about merely discouraging their use for political content shut down within a day in favor of the outlets even as editors began presenting evidence of past misconduct. Those discussions came after Fox News was discouraged as a source for political content.

Wikipedia sourcing policies have been routinely used against conservative media with Breitbart News among outlets subjected to a similar ban as Newsmax. Site owners often praise the decisions, alongside corporate media, as countering “fake news” online in keeping with a strategy proposed to Wikipedia’s owners by a public relations firm run by the Clinton Foundation’s Head of Communications. This has led to Wikipedia being relied on by Big Tech. Analyses of Wikipedia sourcing show the site’s top sources are often left-wing media and American politician articles mostly used left-wing sources. Other studies and analyses further corroborate Wikipedia’s left-wing bias, which has been criticized by the site’s own co-founder and includes supporting Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and the Biden campaign.

(Disclosure: The author has been involved in disputes on Wikipedia with some parties referenced in this article)

T. D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators. Due to previous witch-hunts led by mainstream Wikipedians against their critics, Adler writes under an alias.

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