Wikipedia is an extremely popular, user-created, internet encyclopedia. Is it possible that Wikipedia is also a propaganda machine for big pharmaceutical companies? We conducted an investigation to find out.
Any user can edit Wikipedia. Users who have the time available and the skills necessary may become administrative editors of the content, which gives them more ability to edit the information and to decide about the edits made by others. Wikipedia is an excellent source for general information; however, the information on it also contains many mistakes and inaccuracies. Because of the inaccurate content, Wikipedia is not a proper source to cite for academic research or professional publications.
Misinformation on Wikipedia
Inaccurate information is inevitable on Wikipedia because some people who edit the information are misinformed or make mistakes. Nevertheless, a question arises about intentional disinformation.
Intentional disinformation is the deliberate attempt by someone or some organization to create inaccuracies or remove information from Wikipedia. This intent is to mislead the website visitors. Pharmaceutical companies (also called “Big Pharma”) have been accused of engaging in this behavior. The concern is that they censor Wikipedia information about their organization and the products they make. There are also claims that Big Pharma censors information about competitors. An example of this is criticizing alternative therapies that might reduce pharmaceutical drug use.
Investigation of Censoring Wikipedia
In this investigation, the first place we started was to see what Wikipedia itself says about censorship on the system. Wikipedia reports that many governments censor Wikipedia.
Governments that intentionally censor Wikipedia and have been proven to do so include:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Kingdom
Other governments made also do this to a lesser degree. The significance of this is that because of self-interest many countries engage in Wikipedia censorship. Some even try to block the Wikipedia website completely.
This is proof that censorship of Wikipedia exists. Big Pharma has billions of dollars more than some of these smaller countries. Clearly, Big Pharma has a motive to censor information on Wikipedia because it is in their best interests as well.
Wikipedia has a publicly published policy that states, “Wikipedia is not censored” by Wikipedia itself. An exception is the removal of content for a violation of Wikipedia policies or a violation of any laws of the United States.
Wikipedia says that there is an immediate display of most edits. Detecting and removing inappropriate material takes time. During this time, users can read the material. This means Big Pharma could easily make changes to Wikipedia web pages. These changes are immediately shown to the public. The changed content can remain that way for a long time because Wikipedia only removes offensive material.
Changes Are Not Permanent
Even though Big Pharma can easily change information on Wikipedia pages, any other Wikipedia user can make changes also. Another user might put information back on the Wikipedia web page that was removed by Big Pharma. Wikipedia stores each revision. This allows the editors to go back to any previous version and see what changes were made.
For Big Pharma to engage in Wikipedia censorship, it needs to be vigilant about maintaining the censorship desired. It has to constantly be on guard to manipulate the content and respond to content changes made by others. This is not as difficult as its sounds. There are easy ways to automate parts of this process. Big Pharma certainly has sufficient financial resources to accomplish this task on any scale desired.
Big Pharma Disinformation Campaigns
There is plenty of evidence that Big Pharma participates in an extensive campaign to control public opinion. Manipulation of information might be an attempt to change it into a viewpoint that is in a pharmaceutical company’s favor. Other strategies include keeping negative information secret and/or controlling its distribution.
Examples of the disinformation efforts that Big Pharma engages in include:
- Secretly funding research to create favorable conclusions – The Washington Post reported on Big Pharma’s influence over third-party research that appears to be independent, but it is not.
- Inaccurate and/or non-reporting of clinical trial results – Drug Watch noted that the researchers failed to report deaths from a heart medicine Lorcainide.
- Conflicts of interest – Forbes reported on illegal bribery by GlaxoSmithKline.
- Political lobbying – Global Research calls Big Pharma’s control of Washington, D.C. evil.
- False advertisements – Scientific American notes that a study found most drug commercials are misleading.
- Undue influence on government officials – Alternet ran a story about the current FDA Director Robert Califf’s extensive ties to the pharma industry, including direct investments in pharmaceutical companies.
Evidence that Big Pharma Censors Wikipedia
We did not find clear, direct evidence—only circumstantial evidence—that Big Pharma engages in censoring Wikipedia. The problem is that changes on Wikipedia pages can be made by almost anyone. It would be nearly impossible to learn what relationship any person making an edit on Wikipedia has with Big Pharma.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of “conspiracy” theories about this, such as:
- The Christian Identity Forum claiming that Wikipedia censors history about Big Pharma experimenting on children.
- Investment Watch Blog saying that Wikipedia is a propaganda platform for Big Pharma.
- Evil News notes the claims that unknown editors of Wikipedia constantly insert and manipulate content.
- The Bolen Report even goes so far as to speculate that vast sums of money are being contributed to Wikipedia anonymously by Big Pharma.
Conspiracy theories certainly cannot be considered proof; however, they are indicative of some public sentiment. What happens on Wikipedia in relation to Big Pharma’s issues and their competitors is highly suspicious. There are “skeptics” that the Bolen Report says put negative information about natural remedies and alternative healthcare, who clearly have biased opinions.
Here is the summary of the evidence we collected:
- Censorship of Wikipedia is in Big Pharma’s self-interest – Yes
- Censorship of Wikipedia is possible – Yes
- Big Pharma has sufficient resources to censor Wikipedia – Yes
- Big Pharma engages in similar efforts elsewhere – Yes
- Direct proof of Wikipedia censorship by Big Pharma – No
There is proof that Big Pharma secretly funds research. Clinical trial results have been hidden by not being published. Big Pharma uses illegal bribery, creates false advertisements and engages in corruption of all kinds. Huge fines and criminal convictions prove that Big Pharma breaks the law to promote its own interests. Making edits of Wikipedia information is not illegal; it is encouraged. On that basis, what are the chances that Wikipedia is being censored by Big Pharma? It is highly likely.
If you agree that Big Pharma is censoring Wikipedia unfairly, fight back by making edits on Wikipedia to correct the information. Leave your comments to let us know how you feel about this issue and share this article on social media.