Wikipedia takes inspiration from the White House and redefines 'recession'

Wikipedia takes inspiration from the White House and redefines ‘recession’



Any mention of two consecutive negative quarters is now erased

by Jacques Billot

Wikipedia changed the definition of “recession” and locked the page from further editing. These changes were made during the week the White House proposed a redefinition of recession to mean something other than two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.

Until July 11, the world’s largest online encyclopedia included in its definition of a recession “two consecutive quarters of negative growth”, with users free to make changes:

July 11 screenshot

But since July 25, any mention of “two consecutive negative quarters of GDP growth” has been removed from this section. A Wikipedia admin then froze the edit function, blaming “persistent addition of unsourced or missourced content”, with a warning that the page may have been “affected by an ongoing event”. For a while the new definition was stuck:

Wikipedia’s edit history shows that, until July 27, users were making significant changes to the definition of recession, with any mention of two consecutive quarters of negative growth removed from the page.

In a now deleted section, a Wikipedia user writes that the definition has been changed to reflect the “change in posture and finishing”. [sic] in the United States since the experts of the White House broaden the meaning”.

These changes were made during the week the White House issued a Blog questioning the existing definition of a recession. ‘Two consecutive quarters of declining GDP, the editorial states, ‘is neither the official definition nor how economists assess the state of the business cycle…’. Full text below:

What is a recession? While some argue that two consecutive quarters of real GDP decline constitutes a recession, that is neither the official definition nor how economists assess the state of the business cycle. Instead, official determinations of recessions and economists’ assessment of economic activity are based on a holistic look at data, including labor market, consumer and business spending, industrial production and income. Based on this data, the drop in GDP in the first quarter of this year, even if followed by another drop in GDP in the second quarter, is unlikely to indicate a recession.

– White House

This editorial was published exactly one week before the US GDP figures were released. In what may have been ahead of the release of the numbers, the Commerce Department said Thursday that the U.S. economy has contracted over the past three months, marking two straight quarters of negative growth.

White House officials have tried to limit talk of a recession, suggesting that many parts of the economy remain strong. Earlier this week, President Joe Biden answers to the numbers by claiming that there had been “the strongest rebound in American manufacturing in more than three decades” before to add that “it doesn’t look like a recession to me” after the release of the GDP figures.

Yet it is Joe Biden in 2020 who tweeted“I’ve helped this country out of a recession before – and as president, I will again.”

In an interview with A herd last year, Wikipedia co-creator Larry Sanger publish that he no longer trusted the website he had created. He said that on key issues, Wikipedia was “just verbalizing” the view of the global establishment:

If you look at the Wikipedia articles, you can just see how they simply express the views of the World Economic Council or the World Economic Forum, and the World Health Organization, the CDC, and various other mouthpieces for the establishment like Fauci – they take their cues from them… There’s a global application of a certain point of view, which is amazing to me as a freedom-loving libertarian or conservative.

– Larry Sanger, UnHerd

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