Wellesley Student and Professor Research Wikipedia’s Role in Perceived Political Bias

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July 25, 2019

How do partisanship and perceived political bias affect the Wikipedia pages of news sources?

In an era of the spread of misinformation, Khonzodakon Umarova ’20 and her advisor, Eni Mustafaraj, assistant professor of computer science at Wellesley, have found that people prefer to be aware of political bias in the news they consume and that while news outlets generally don’t advertise their biases, readers have taken it upon themselves to place these sources on a political spectrum. They include these opinions on Wikipedia as if they are facts, which then filter into search engine results.

In their recent paper, How Partisanship and Perceived Political Bias Affect Wikipedia Entries of News Sources, Umarova and Mustafaraja write that they have seen “repeated addition and removal of political labels, such as conservative, left, right, and liberal” in the lead paragraph of a Wikipedia page, which is also the first description that appears when searching online for a news outlet.

Recently, Umarova and Mustafaraja sat down to talk more about their paper and more specifically how so-called “edit wars” and “vandalism” on Wikipedia affect political biases.