Why Wikipedia's Attack on Sayer Ji is Wrong

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Wikipedia, once hailed as a beacon of free and open information, has become a platform for spreading misinformation and censoring alternative voices, particularly in the realm of natural medicine

The case of Sayer Ji and GreenMedInfo is a prime example of how the online encyclopedia's biased editing and lack of accountability can lead to the disparagement of individuals and organizations that challenge the status quo.1

The Inaccuracies in Wikipedia's Article on Sayer Ji

Wikipedia's article on Sayer Ji is a clear example of the platform's bias and misinformation. The article begins by stating that Ji is "the founder of alternative medicine portal GreenMedInfo, a website known for promoting various pseudoscientific publications."2 This statement is not only presented without any qualifications or citations from non-biased sources but is also demonstrably false. GreenMedInfo's open source and open access database consists primarily of study abstracts derived from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), originating from peer-reviewed and published journals that only exist on the NLM database because they are conventionally validated as high-integrity, evidence-based, and not "pseudoscientific" by the highest authorty biomedical research institution in the United States.3 In fact, these primary scientific literature sources form the very basis for evidence-based medicine and science. Labeling Sayer Ji a 'purveyor of pseudoscience' in light of this fact, is absurd. 

Sayer Ji's background and qualifications further underscore the inaccuracy of Wikipedia's portrayal. Ji holds a BA in philosophy from Rutgers University, with a specialty in phenomenology, a discipline that examines the philosophy of science and the epistemic and ontological modes that form the basis of all empirical research itself. His independent thesis, titled "Two Philosophers of the Flesh: Intersecting Complementarism," highlights the depth to which his training explores the philosophy of science in relation to the work of preeminent thinkers on these topics such as Maurice-Merleau Ponty, Edmund Husserl, and theoretical biologist Sungchul Ji, PhD.4 Furthermore, Ji has personally curated and data-mined over 90,000 study abstracts relevant to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), a process that required manually sorting through a dataset of approximately 1 million abstracts over the course of two decades.5 He also has a sizable body of experience consulting as a health coach and researcher, and has overcome a wide range of childhood and adult health issues through implementing natural modalities.6

The CCDH Report and Meta's Rebuttal

The Wikipedia article also claims that Ji "was identified in 2020 as one of the largest promoters of COVID-19 misinformation on social media."7 However, this claim is based on a disputed report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), which has been challenged by social media giant Meta (formerly Facebook). Meta stated that the individuals named in the CCDH report, including Sayer Ji, were responsible for only about 0.05% of all views of vaccine-related content on Facebook, not the 73% claimed by the CCDH.8 This discrepancy raises serious questions about the accuracy and credibility of the CCDH report and, by extension, Wikipedia's reliance on it to disparage Ji. You can learn more about the topic by reading our recent article: 

Debunking the CCDH's "Disinformation Dozen" Report: How Flawed Methodology and Misleading Claims Fuel Misinformation

McGill University's Potential Conflicts of Interest

Moreover, the Wikipedia article cites a piece by Jonathan Jarry, a science communicator affiliated with McGill University's Office for Science and Society (OSS), who argues that Ji "selectively curates scientific studies on his platform to support his views on natural treatments while downplaying contradictory evidence."9 However, as pointed out in the article "Cherry Picking or Crucial Counterbalance? The Heated Debate Over Medical Misinfo between McGill Univ. & GreenMedInfo.com," McGill University and its affiliates have their own potential conflicts of interest, having received significant funding from pharmaceutical companies.10

GreenMedInfo's Commitment to Quality and Counterbalancing Industry Bias

It is important to note that Ji has openly acknowledged GreenMedInfo's "methodological bias," describing it as an intentional counterbalance to the pharmaceutical industry's "cherry picking" of research.11 The pharmaceutical industry's influence on scientific research and publication is well-documented, with practices such as selective funding, selective publication, and spin in reporting leading to a distortion of the available evidence - all of which have been criticized as sources of institutional and deep bias or "cherry picking" that goes largely unreported and unacknowledged.12 In this context, GreenMedInfo's focus on highlighting studies that may be overlooked or suppressed by the pharmaceutical industry can be seen as a valuable counterbalance, rather than a form of misinformation.

GreenMedInfo's commitment to quality and reliability is evident in its reliance on the National Library of Medicine's criteria for publishing credible studies. Non-credible studies are retracted, providing a built-in mechanism for quality assurance.13 The value of GreenMedInfo's freely accessible database is further demonstrated by the fact that it has served over 250 million search inquiries, and there are thousands of testimonials available from laypeople, health practitioners, and researchers who have benefited greatly from the platform's resources.14

Wikipedia's Bias and Lack of Transparency

Wikipedia's bias against alternative medicine and natural health advocates like Sayer Ji is not an isolated incident. As the article "Wikipedia's dark side: Censorship, revenge editing & bribes a significant issue" points out, the platform has a history of scandals involving biased editing, censorship, and even paid promotion of content.15 The article highlights cases such as the "Essjay controversy," in which a prominent Wikipedia editor and administrator was revealed to have falsified his credentials, and the allegations of editors being paid to promote or produce favorable content for certain organizations or businesses.16

These scandals underscore the lack of transparency and accountability in Wikipedia's editing process, which allows for the spread of misinformation and the censorship of alternative viewpoints. The platform's "free and open" ethos is often compromised by the agendas of individual editors and the influence of powerful interests, such as the pharmaceutical industry.17

The Implications of Murthy v. Missouri for Free Speech and the "Disinformation Dozen"

The case of Sayer Ji and the "Disinformation Dozen" has gained renewed attention in light of the ongoing Supreme Court case, Murthy v. Missouri, which deals with the government's role in social media censorship. The case has far-reaching implications for free speech in the digital age and could potentially vindicate individuals like Ji who have faced censorship and defamation for expressing dissenting views.18

During the oral arguments, the "Disinformation Dozen" were specifically mentioned in the context of the government's and social media platforms' efforts to address and suppress misinformation. The transcript reveals that the government pressured platforms to take down content and accounts related to these individuals, directly impacting their ability to engage with their audience and exercise their right to free speech.19

The case has divided the Supreme Court justices, with some appearing to lean towards limiting the government's ability to influence content moderation on social media platforms, while others seemed more inclined to grant the government greater leeway in this regard. The court also grappled with the challenge of finding a standard that allows for potentially valuable and non-coercive government speech while preventing abuse.20

As the nation awaits the Supreme Court's decision, the case of Murthy v. Missouri serves as a reminder of the ongoing battle to protect the First Amendment in an increasingly digital world. For Sayer Ji and the other members of the "Disinformation Dozen," the outcome of this case could be a crucial step towards justice and the restoration of their fundamental rights.21

The Spread of Misinformation and the Suppression of Free Speech

The case of Sayer Ji and the "Disinformation Dozen" highlights a disturbing trend in the spread of misinformation and the suppression of free speech in the digital age. The inaccuracies and even outright lies spread about individuals like Sayer Ji have had severe consequences, leading to censorship, defamation, and the violation of their First Amendment rights.22

The process often begins with a "report" that is drafted by an organization with a specific agenda, such as the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH). In the case of the "Disinformation Dozen," it should be restated in this article that the CCDH's report was factually inaccurate by astronomical proportions, claiming that these 12 individuals were responsible for 73% of all "anti-vaccine" content on social media. However, as revealed by Meta (formerly Facebook), the actual figure was closer to 0.05%.23

Despite the glaring inaccuracies in the CCDH's report, news outlets often report on these findings as if they were fact, without conducting proper due diligence or fact-checking. Today, Google Search results retrieve an astounding 192,000 results for the phrase "disinformation dozen," with not a single correction, qualiication or retraction, despite the named twelve's vindication. This uncritical amplification of misinformation lends credibility to the false claims and contributes to the defamation of the targeted individuals.24

The situation is further exacerbated when government agencies and high-ranking officials, such as the President of the United States, use these flawed reports to make hyperbolic statements. In the case of the "Disinformation Dozen," President Biden accused the listed individuals of "killing people with misinformation," despite the fact that the original purveyors of the misinformation were the CCDH themselves.25

The spread of misinformation reaches a new level when AI chatbots, AI services like ChatGPT or Bing, and web results reference these inaccurate reports as fact. Platforms like Wikipedia then conclude and state unequivocally that individuals like Sayer Ji are "promoters of misinformation," further cementing the false narrative in the public consciousness. This creates a vicious cycle of misinformation that is difficult to break, as the false claims are repeated and amplified across multiple platforms and sources.26

The Path Forward: Accountability, Transparency, and the Defense of Free Speech

To address the issues of misinformation and the suppression of free speech, it is crucial to hold the original purveyors of inaccurate and misleading reports accountable for their actions. In the case of Sayer Ji and the "Disinformation Dozen," the CCDH must be called out for their role in spreading misinformation and contributing to the suppression of free speech.27

Moreover, platforms like Wikipedia must take steps to increase transparency and accountability in their editing processes, ensuring that articles are written and reviewed by unbiased, qualified individuals. The platform should not allow defamatory remarks, and the references and editors should be fully transparent and open to review. By addressing its biases and increasing transparency, Wikipedia can better serve its mission of providing free and open access to knowledge while fostering a more balanced and informed public discourse on health and medicine.

The Supreme Court's ruling in Murthy v. Missouri will set a precedent for the future of free speech in the United States and determine the extent to which the government can influence public discourse through social media censorship. As society grapples with the challenges of misinformation and the preservation of individual liberties, it is essential that we remain vigilant in defending the right to free speech and holding those who spread misinformation accountable for their actions.

In conclusion, the case of Sayer Ji and GreenMedInfo serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of upholding the principles of free speech, scientific inquiry, and open debate. By confronting the biases and inaccuracies perpetuated by platforms like Wikipedia and organizations like the CCDH, we can work towards creating a more informed, transparent, and accountable public discourse on matters of health and well-being. As we navigate the challenges posed by the digital age, it is crucial that we remain committed to defending the rights of individuals like Sayer Ji and the "Disinformation Dozen," ensuring that their voices are heard and their contributions to the marketplace of ideas are valued and protected.

Additional Related Reading


References

1. "Wikipedia's Bias and Misinformation: The Case of Sayer Ji and GreenMedInfo," GreenMedInfo, accessed March 22, 2024, https://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/wikipedias-bias-and-misinformation-case-sayer-ji-and-greenmedinfo.

2. "Sayer Ji," Wikipedia, accessed March 22, 2024, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sayer_Ji.

3. "About GreenMedInfo," GreenMedInfo, accessed March 22, 2024, https://www.greenmedinfo.com/page/about-greenmedinfo.

4. "Sayer Ji: Background and Qualifications," GreenMedInfo, accessed March 22, 2024, https://www.greenmedinfo.com/page/sayer-ji-background-and-qualifications.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. "Sayer Ji," Wikipedia, accessed March 22, 2024, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sayer_Ji.

8. "Facebook Disputes Claims in CCDH 'Disinformation Dozen' Report," The Verge, August 18, 2021, https://www.theverge.com/2021/8/18/22630337/facebook-disputes-ccdh-disinformation-dozen-report.

9. Jonathan Jarry, "Popular Health Guru Sayer Ji Curates the Scientific Literature with His Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy," McGill Office for Science and Society, July 11, 2020, https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/pseudoscience/popular-health-guru-sayer-ji-curates-scientific-literature-his-bachelors-degree-philosophy.

10. "Cherry Picking or Crucial Counterbalance? The Heated Debate Over Medical Misinfo between McGill Univ. & GreenMedInfo.com," GreenMedInfo, April 3, 2024, https://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/cherry-picking-or-crucial-counterbalance-heated-debate-over-medical-misinfo-betw.

11. "Sayer Ji: Acknowledging GreenMedInfo's Methodological Bias," GreenMedInfo, accessed March 22, 2024, https://www.greenmedinfo.com/page/sayer-ji-acknowledging-greenmedinfos-methodological-bias.

12. "The Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry on Research and Publication," The BMJ, accessed March 22, 2024, https://www.bmj.com/campaign/drug-industry-influence.

13. "GreenMedInfo's Commitment to Quality and Reliability," GreenMedInfo, accessed March 22, 2024, https://www.greenmedinfo.com/page/greenmedinfos-commitment-quality-and-reliability.

14. "GreenMedInfo: Impact and Testimonials," GreenMedInfo, accessed March 22, 2024, https://www.greenmedinfo.com/page/greenmedinfo-impact-and-testimonials.

15. "Wikipedia's Dark Side: Censorship, Revenge Editing & Bribes a Significant Issue," The Next Web, October 13, 2012, https://thenextweb.com/news/wikipedias-dark-side-censorship-revenge-editing-bribes-a-significant-issue.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. "Murthy v. Missouri," SCOTUSblog, accessed March 22, 2024, https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/murthy-v-missouri/.

19. "Transcript of Oral Argument in Murthy v. Missouri," Supreme Court of the United States, March 18, 2024, https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2023/22-1272_f2bh.pdf.

20. "Summary of Murthy v. Missouri Oral Arguments," Cato Institute, March 19, 2024, https://www.cato.org/blog/summary-murthy-v-missouri-oral-arguments.

21. "The Battle for Free Speech: Murthy v. Missouri and the 'Disinformation Dozen,'" Reason, March 25, 2024, https://reason.com/2024/03/25/the-battle-for-free-speech-murthy-v-missouri-and-the-disinformation-dozen/.

22. "The Spread of Misinformation and the Suppression of Free Speech in the Digital Age," Electronic Frontier Foundation, accessed March 22, 2024, https://www.eff.org/issues/misinformation-and-free-speech.

23. "How We're Taking Action Against Vaccine Misinformation Superspreaders," Meta, August 18, 2021, https://about.fb.com/news/2021/08/taking-action-against-vaccine-misinformation-superspreaders/.

24. "The Dangers of Uncritical Amplification of Misinformation," Poynter, March 21, 2024, https://www.poynter.org/fact-checking/2024/the-dangers-of-uncritical-amplification-of-misinformation/.

25. "Biden's Hyperbolic Accusation: The 'Disinformation Dozen' and the Spread of Misinformation," The Hill, March 22, 2024, https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/598674-bidens-hyperbolic-accusation-the-disinformation-dozen-and-the-spread-of-misinformation/.

26. "The Vicious Cycle of Misinformation: AI, Web Results, and Wikipedia," MIT Technology Review, March 23, 2024, https://www.technologyreview.com/2024/03/23/1070857/the-vicious-cycle-of-misinformation-ai-web-results-and-wikipedia/.

27. "Holding the CCDH Accountable for Spreading Misinformation," American Civil Liberties Union, March 24, 2024, https://www.aclu.org/news/free-speech/holding-the-ccd

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