October 10, 2015

New Working Paper: “Wikipedia Perpetuates Political Bias”


Collective Intelligence and Neutral Point of View: The Case of Wikipedia


Shane Greenstein
Northwestern U.

Feng Zhu


National Bureau of Economic Research


We examine whether collective intelligence helps achieve a neutral point of view using data from a decade of Wikipedia’s articles on US politics. Our null hypothesis builds on Linus’ Law, often expressed as “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” Our findings are consistent with a narrow interpretation of Linus’ Law, namely, a greater number of contributors to an article makes an article more neutral. No evidence supports a broad interpretation of Linus’ Law. Moreover, several empirical facts suggest the law does not shape many articles. The majority of articles receive little attention, and most articles change only mildly from their initial slant.

Direct to Full Text (33 pages; PDF)

See Also: Research Discussed in The Washington Post in a Story by Ezra Klein

Wikipedia was founded on the notion the Internet is a self-correcting machine: by harnessing collective intelligence through an open-source platform, the facts will ultimately come to light. But a new study shows that collective intelligence generally produces biased information, except in a narrow range of circumstances. Northwestern’s Shane Greenstein and the University of Southern California’s Feng Zhu analyzed a decade’s worth of Wikipedia articles on U.S. politics and found that only a handful of them were politically neutral.

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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