Ambrose Li

Toronto’s mayoral election and Wikipedia’s blatant bias

During last month’s election period, I tried to find a picture of Chloe Brown.‍[Note 1] There was none. There was no article about her either. On the election page, she was not even shown in the election “info box” as a leading candidate.

On election day, I was watching CP24[Note 2]’s election coverage live and at one point, someone in the panel pointed out that Chloe Brown was in the top six (at the time) and said something to the effect that “This is shameful. She should have been invited to debates.”

After the media figured out that Olivia Chow had won, I scoured the net for reports. Literally every single local report highlighted the fact that she was the first racialized woman to have won in fact the first racialized person to have won, and the first woman post-amalgamation.

But what did Wikipedia say? Someone mentioned the two facts and the edit was stetted (“reverted”, in Wikipedia speak), citing the lame excuse that the fact was “trivial” and “not cited anywhere.”

Someone else later put it back in, with three citations.

I looked for foreign reports the next day; almost everyone quoted her saying she was from St. James Town. But no one elaborated, probably because no one knew what it meant.

How can we blame them? What does Wikipedia say about St. James Town? It’s “one of Canada’s most densely populated communities.”‍[Note 3][Note 4]

Yes, it does say “one of 13 economically deprived neighbourhoods” in the middle of the paragraph, where it’s likely to be missed. But say St. James Town and a local would know you’re talking about a poor neighbourhood. People reading the New York Times wouldn’t get it.

(No, Chloe Brown comes from an even poorer neighbourhood and I don’t believe Olivia Chow is living in St. James Town any more, but Wikipedia doesn’t even take Chloe Brown seriously neither does mainstream media for that matter.)

Wikipedia has “NPOV” (neutrality) as one of their central tenets; ironically, the existence of this tenet makes Wikipedia biased.

I subscribe to Louise Ravelli’s and Gilda Williams’ view that there is no such thing as objectivity in writing. And having graduated from my program at OCAD, I also don’t buy the view that “neutrality” in writing exists you either acknowledge your bias and state it upfront, or you’re presenting biased writing as “neutral”.

So right off the bat, Wikipedia denies its bias, which makes it biased.

It has other issues other than ignoring local points of view. For one, they write off graphic design as useless.

No, you read it right.

Of course they don’t word it that way, but look for any logo and you’re almost guaranteed to find a nice SVG version, with a copyright statememt that claims the logo is “public domain” because it’s too simple.

Excuse me, logos must be simple or they’ll not be legible. The very creativity is to distill something complex into a simple yet distinct and recognizable logo, and they’re saying because it’s simple, there must have been no creativity. That’s ignorance; it’s also arrogance.

They also sport nice SVG versions of wordmarks, many probably created with custom typefaces, and they would also claim them to be “public domain” because hey, it’s just type, no?

I honestly think the three Canadian design associations should team up with ICO-D and sue the shit out of Wikimedia Foundation. No, Deaf associations should join them too, because they also regard YouTube videos as “unreliable”,‍[Note 5] basically writing off ASL and other sign languages as real languages.

I’m not Martin Oei or J.J. McCullough but more and more I’m agreeing with them that Wikipedia should be considered harmful.


  1. Yes, because I was writing a Wikipedia article on the election, but not on the English Wikipedia.
  2. A local TV station in Toronto
  3. Wikipedia, s.v. “St. James Town” (2023), accessed July 12, 2023, https://​en​.wiki​pedia​.org/​w/​index​.php​?​title​=​St​.​_​James​_​Town&oldid​=​1162226327.
  4. Ok, the Canadian Encyclopedia isn’t doing any better, but their article was written by someone from the city’s tourism department. I was going to write them a complaint until I realized they’re based right here in Toronto.
  5. “Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Perennial sources,” in Wikipedia, accessed July 12, 2023, https://​en​.wiki​pedia​.org/​wiki/​Wiki​pedia:RSPYT.