In an interview with journalist Glenn Greenwald on his ‘System Update’ podcast, Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia, has claimed that the online encyclopedia has become a tool used by the US liberal establishment and intelligence community to engage in “information warfare.” Sanger expressed his concern about how the site he helped create in 2001 has been transformed into an instrument of control for the left-liberal establishment, including agencies like the CIA, FBI, and other US intelligence agencies.
Sanger’s claims are based on evidence that shows CIA and FBI computers were being utilized to edit Wikipedia as early as 2008, suggesting that this manipulation may still be ongoing. The existence of such activity was first exposed by a programming student named Virgil Griffith in 2007. Griffith developed a program called WikiScanner, which could track the origins of computers used to edit Wikipedia articles. Through this program, it was discovered that the CIA, FBI, major corporations, and government agencies were involved in scrubbing the online encyclopedia of potentially incriminating information.
Examples of these edits include the removal of casualty counts from the Iraq War using CIA computers and the deletion of aerial and satellite images of the US prison at Guantanamo Bay with an FBI machine. The CIA was also found to have edited numerous articles, including those about the former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, China’s nuclear program, and the Argentine navy. Some manipulations were even more trivial, such as former CIA chief William Colby expanding his list of accomplishments by editing his own entry.
According to Sanger, intelligence agencies either pay influential individuals to push their agendas or develop their own talent within the intelligence community. These individuals then learn the “Wikipedia game” and manipulate information to align with their own interests. Sanger argues that a significant portion of intelligence and information warfare takes place online, with websites like Wikipedia serving as battlegrounds for shaping narratives.
Sanger’s claims are not isolated incidents. Earlier this year, Elon Musk, the owner of X (formerly Twitter), released documents revealing how the platform’s former executives collaborated with the FBI to remove content that the agency wanted hidden. Twitter also assisted the US military’s online influence campaigns and censored “anti-Ukraine narratives” on behalf of multiple US intelligence agencies. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta (formerly Facebook), has also admitted that Facebook censored accurate information damaging to President Joe Biden’s 2020 election campaign at the direct request of the FBI.
These revelations raise concerns about the manipulation and control of online information by powerful entities. The influence of intelligence agencies and other actors in shaping narratives on platforms like Wikipedia highlights the need for transparency and safeguards against the misuse of online platforms for propaganda and information warfare.