Conservapedia is an alternative to Wikipedia set up by conservative educator and activist Andrew Schlafly in late 2006, after Schlafly experienced difficulties editing Wikipedia from a conservative viewpoint. Schlafly says Wikipedia is full of errors (I agree) and that it censors the conservative viewpoint. A few weeks ago I had some interactions with the Conservapedia administrators, summarized here, after an inflammatory article was placed into Conservapedia by a vandal or parodist.
Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia has a main page that introduces the encyclopedia. Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia carries news on its front page. Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia protects the main page content, meaning that you need special privileges to edit it.
How does Conservapedia handle serious errors of fact? There has been some talk in the news media about Conservapedia’s authoritarian and heavy-handed spproach to those who disagree with the opinions of Andrew Schlafly, but how does Conservapedia handle a simple error of fact?
The other day, Conservapedia’s main page carried the following news item:
Showing that promising anything to get elected is everything, the White House says Obama is against ‘Fairness Doctrine‘ revival. In a major blow to his radical leftist supporters, a White House spokesman says President Obama opposes any move to bring back the so-called Fairness Doctrine. 
As it stands,this item is inaccurate because of the implication that Barack Obama had won the 2008 election campaigning on a promise to restore the ancient, long abolished, Fairness Doctrine, a FCC regulation that required coverage of politics to present opposing viewpoints. On the contrary, Obama’s spokesman in July had said Obama had no interest in restoring the Fairness Doctrine.
I happen to have a user account on Conservapedia, so I used it to make the following comment on the discussion page for the main page of Conservapedia.
Obama and Fairness Doctrine
Today’s comment on the Fairness Doctrine is particularly egregious because it implies that President Obama won the election campaigning on restoring the Fairness Doctrine. On the contrary, last summar his spokesman Michael Ortiz said:
- “Sen. Obama does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters. He considers this debate to be a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 13, 2008
One could say that it may be that Obama secretly harbored a wish to restore that regulatory policy, but to state or imply that it is something he said he would do is factually incorrect. —TonySidaway 07:59, 20 February 2009 (EST)
Retrieved from “http://www.conservapedia.com/Talk:Main_Page“
Andrew Schlafly responded quite promptly. The statement was supported by a cited source (a Fox News item titled “White House: Obama Opposes ‘Fairness Doctrine’ Revival”), Obama is going to ‘try to censor popular talk radio under the guise of having “as many diverse viewpoints as possible,”‘ and I had misspelled the word “summer”. And ‘censorship of opponents is the ”sine qua non” of atheism.’
Ignoring the irrelevant comments, I responded as follows:
The source does not support the implication, on the main page of Conservapedia, that Obama made such promises. Please correct your copy. —TonySidaway 12:39, 20 February 2009 (EST)
And Schlafly duly gave it his best shot. The item now reads:
After top Obama aide David Axelrod left open the possibility of reinstatement of Fairness Doctrine on Sunday, the Obama camp now denies it will reinstate it. Instead, as Obama campaigned, the liberal attempt to censor critics will probably take the form of FCC regulations mandating displacement of the truth by “opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 13, 2008;Fox News Feb. 18, 2009
So there we have it. Conservapedia now no longer implies that Barack Obama won the election on a promise to restore the Fairness Doctrine. Instead it now states as a fact that “opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible” is a form of censorship.
See what a little polite persuasion can achieve?
And Andrew Schlafly couldn’t resist a final repetition of his slur:
Tony, we know how atheists love to censor everything from classroom prayer to criticism of evolution. Just look at Wikipedia entries on the related topics. You won’t admit that atheists censor, but you’re not going to censor anything here. I’ve strengthened the headline per your information. Thanks and Godspeed.–Andy Schlafly 13:19, 20 February 2009 (EST)
Conserrvapedia administrator TK, who wrote the news item, disagrees with us both!
Well I certainly disagree with both of you! The fact of the matter, as my news item said, was that Obama allowed his surrogates, Pelosi and Reid, and a dozen others, to call for the reinstatement, for over a year during the campaign. His now saying he is against it, is deceit and others, like Tony saying “prove he was for it” is nothing but wiki lawyering. The FACT he allowed his surrogates to pander to the leftists, (and all surrogates are tightly controlled, and often used for Red Herrings and Trial Balloons) was his trying to have his cake and eat it to. The item, as it now reads is accurate, as far as it goes, however. —₮K/Admin/Talk 18:32, 20 February 2009 (EST)
The fact that Obama’s campaign publicly disavowed interest in the Fairness Doctrine as long ago as last summer seems to have zoomed over TK’s head. The difference between the known facts and his own interpolations also seems to have escaped him. TK is one of those entrusted with editing the main page of Conservapedia.