AI Systems May Be Influenced by Wikipedia’s Perceived Political Bias

The online encyclopedia’s apparent prejudice against right-wing politicians is influencing AI responses, research suggests

A US-based conservative think-tank, the Manhattan Institute, has claimed that Wikipedia tends to portray right-wing political figures negatively, a trend that is influencing AI large language models (LLMs) which draw data from the online encyclopedia.

A report published on Thursday by the Manhattan Institute examined evidence of political bias in English-language articles on Wikipedia by correlating the names of Western leaders and prominent politicians with emotionally charged words.

The study found “prevailing associations of negative emotions (e.g., anger and disgust) with right-leaning public figures; and positive emotions (e.g., joy) with left-leaning public figures,” suggesting “evidence of political bias embedded in Wikipedia articles.”

“We find some of the aforementioned political associations embedded in Wikipedia articles popping up in OpenAI’s language models,” the report concluded.

The researchers noted that Wikipedia articles are likely a prominent part of OpenAI’s “secret corpus of data” used to train ChatGPT.

However, the report acknowledges that this pattern is not universal and is more common in articles about US political figures, while there was no evidence of Wikipedia bias in entries on British politicians or US-based think tanks.

For example, in references to recent US presidents, Donald Trump – now the Republican presidential frontrunner – was portrayed with the most negative sentiment, while Barack Obama was listed as having the most positive references.

The report concluded that Wikipedia “is not living up to its stated neutral-point-of-view policy.”

The policy referred to, which Wikipedia describes as one of the encyclopedia’s pillars, stipulates that articles must exclude personal opinions and interpretations of the editor, be based on reliable sources, and explore multiple points of view when dealing with a controversial topic.

Wikipedia has been repeatedly criticized for its supposedly biased takes on hot-button political issues, with its co-founder, Larry Sanger, saying last year that the website had become an instrument of “control” used by the US intelligence agencies to wage information warfare.