Escaping the Leftwing Bias in Technology

Jon Del Arroz at the Federalist discussed the left-wing bias and influence of the big tech organizations, from corporations like Google to non-profits like Wikipedia. He then offers alternatives.

A couple of things he mentions are interesting. Former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich is leading development of the Brave browser. I use Firefox a lot because it has certain extensions I consider important. However, Brave looks like it might be a good alternative when I'm just surfing for fun. I've been using Vivaldi for that, and I like it. However, it also lacks the extensions I need. Looks like I'm stuck with Firefox for some things.

Vox Day, meanwhile, has forked Wikipedia and now offers an alternative at Infogalactic. I'm not sure what to think about that. I'm not convinced that Wikipedia is irredeemably biased, but even if it is, I question whether an organization led by Day is the right corrective, if for no other reason than the controversies that surround him.

I tend to think we just need to get a bunch of non-left editors over to Wikipedia. Why not adopt a page or two over there on topics that you know about and start tracking, writing, and editing? The way Wikipedia is set up, I think that over time we could have a reasonably fair encyclopedia. It would take patience; it apparently takes a track record of reasonable editing to get higher level permissions, but it's doable.

There is one company that is not included in Arroz's article that I would like to ask about. Patriot Mobile markets itself as a conservative alternative in mobile service. Has anyone here used them? Or can you comment on them?

The reason I'm asking is a recent change in my current cell service. First, they turned on their news app to feed into my notifications feed. (I had it turned off.) Then, several times a day I got "current headlines" that were consistently anti-Trump headlines from the WaPo, etc. I left it on for a couple of days and never saw one headline for an article that was not an attack on Trump. I turned the news feed off again, but since then I've seriously been thinking about switching providers.


Texan99 said...

What's a browser extension?

Tom said...

It's something you add to your browser, AKA a plug-in. These are often made by third parties. E.g., I use Evernote to clip articles online. That organization has an extension for Firefox, which I've installed, so I can use Evernote as I surf w/ Firefox. I don't see that extension available for Brave, though.

Tom said...

There are too many browsers out there for most app / software makers, so usually only the big ones are supported: Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.

I actually like the Opera browser as well.

Grim said...

I use Chrome with a number of extensions, myself: Disconnect, HTTPS Everywhere, more than one adblocker, Disable HTML5 Autoplay (how I hate self-playing videos), DotVPN, and a few that exist to increase functionality rather than to disable things that people would like by browser to do whether I like it or not. :)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Day is controversial because of his, uh, traditional(?) views and his ability to act. Both qualities are needed to start a possible counterbalance to Wikipedia. Both qualities will make one "controversial" at this time as the much tamer Mr. Eich found out. In short, anyone having the views that makes them consider Wikipedia in an unkind light and that puts the work into a replacement, will be found to be "controversial" by the socialists, even if something has to be made up.

As for forking Wikipedia, the features envisioned for Infogalactic are fundamental enough that a serious software refactoring or rewriting is a must. If Wikipedia could be infiltrated, the process would take time and would delay the features. The fork skips that step, and if it works, makes reforming Wikipedia a moot point while saving years of effort. The think lost is the panache of having the name "Wikipedia", but on the Internet, things live, change, and die so fast that maybe a name isn't the asset we think it is.

-Stc Michael

Tom said...

The only problem I have with Chrome is it's a Google product and I don't trust that company.

Brave was built on the Chromium open source core of Chrome, so I'm hoping some of these extensions become available for it.

But nice set of extensions. I didn't know about disabling autoplay, but after searching for the extension you mention, I found that Firefox has a setting that disables it. Sweet.

Here's an article about disabling autoplay on a number of browsers:

Tom said...

Hm, Opera is also Chromium based and can use Chrome extensions, apparently. So, maybe Brave can, too. I'll have to try it out.

I haven't found Day's views to be all that traditional, and a capacity for action can be used just as well for ill as good. I'm not convinced that he's up to much good, myself, though I haven't looked very deeply into it, either.

Wikipedia, though, has worldwide recognition and is an institution well worth engaging.

I'm interested in the plans for Infogalactic and will see what happens. I'm not going to ignore it just because of Day. But, I'm skeptical.

jaed said...

I tend to think we just need to get a bunch of non-left editors over to Wikipedia. Why not adopt a page or two over there on topics that you know about and start tracking, writing, and editing?

Briefly, because the existing editors will not allow it. Your edits on politically-related pages will be reverted as soon as someone realizes what you're doing. (Indeed, your edits on non-politically-related pages may be reverted, too.)

More in-depth, because Wikipedia's reliable-source policy prevents it. Wikipedia does not allow "original research" to become part of an article, meaning experts are disadvantaged when editing, and it generally does not allow primary sources either. Secondary sources are required, and those secondary sources must be "reliable". What constitutes a "reliable source" varies—but generally, it resolves to "mainstream media outlet". Conservative-leaning outlets are, generally, far less likely to be considered reliable sources. So you can see where this goes. When a NYT editorial is considered a reliable source but the Federalist is not, you get systemically biased results pretty much automatically, even if the editors do not lean left. (And they do, which I think is just founder effect and not originally intended, but nonetheless here we are.)

Tom said...

jaed, are you speaking from personal experience?

I'm not sure what I think about primary sources, but primary and secondary sources can be checked. With anonymous authors, expertise cannot, so I understand that.

Obviously, the bias regarding conservative sources is a problem.

jaed said...

Some personal experience (not much—this was trying to edit/apply minor corrections to pages that someone had camped on and "owned"), and some experience watching Talk pages on Wikipedia that dealt with controversies, and getting a sense of the arguments used. I remember the argument about whether the Federalist could be acceptable—versus similar left-leaning sources—in particular, but it was pretty typical.

(Authors need not be anonymous, also.)

Tom said...

Interesting. Thanks. I think I'm going to start playing around over there and see how things work. I'll keep what you've said in mind.

MikeD said...

For cell service, my wife and I are quite happy with Republic Wireless (which she learned about from Clark Howard). Very inexpensive (unlimited talk and text for $15/month), but the downside is, you need to buy the phone (good ones can be had for $150 or less) and there's no tech support. But we've never needed any, and the phone more than pays for itself in savings. Check it out at (oh, and I'm not a paid spokesman and as far as I know there's no benefit for me referring anyone, so all this is just my honest opinion).

Tom said...

Thanks, Mike. I'll check them out.

Lars Walker said...

I've been trying to change over to Brave, but to my dismay I find it buggy. Unaccountable slow-downs, and sometimes my mouse control goes weird. Still hoping it'll improve.