Unveiling “Adville”: The activist behind the subversion of Swedish Wikipedia

Political activism on Wikipedia

  • Under the alias "Adville", Harald Andersson has been one of the most active users of the Swedish Wikipedia for more than ten years and is responsible for up to 50,000 article edits.
  • Andersson is particularly instrumental in upholding the encyclopedia's political bias, where ideological opponents are systematically burdened with derogatory labels and misleading disinformation.
  • The activism is expressed mainly in the form of sympathies with the far-left milieu and the neo-atheist movement, whose articles are at the same time vigorously defended against any form of criticism.
  • When a reporter from Nya Dagbladet reaches him on the phone, he says that he has become "addicted".
publicerad 15 september 2023
- av Isac Boman
Harald Andersson, the Wikipedia administrator behind the signature "Adville".

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In the past, the Swedish-language Wikipedia has often been touted as an open and independent encyclopedia, where individuals with a variety of special interests hypothetically can contribute high-quality source references and objective articles to the extensive online library. At the same time, the encyclopedia’s founder, Larry Sanger, has noted with sadness that the reality today is very different from what it looked like when Wikipedia was launched in 2001. In a statement in 2020, Sanger went so far as to say that the moderators who have come to dominate the platform are “living in a fantasy world” and that the site’s policy of neutrality is now effectively dead.

“It is time for Wikipedia to come clean and admit that it has abandoned NPOV (Neutral Point of View). At the very least they should admit that they have redefined the term in a way that makes it utterly incompatible with its original notion of neutrality, which is the ordinary and common one”, Sanger stressed.

The political subversion of Wikipedia, however, is by no means spontaneous. Behind the ideological distortion are activists who have infiltrated the platform and are systematically using their influence to determine which topics deserve their own article, how to describe the objects of the article, and by defining which sources are approved – and which are prohibited.

A former writer for the encyclopedia testifies that the ideological shift has been driven by activists characterized by an extreme left-wing worldview in which dissenters are systematically targeted both internally and externally. He describes the alleged source criticism as intellectually dishonest, with administrators almost exclusively accepting sources from one side of the political spectrum.

Wikipedia has been infiltrated by cultural Marxists who have pushed it to become yet another propaganda medium. Therefore, far-left magazines (such as Expo) and Jewish lobbying organizations (such as the ADL) are accepted as sources of factual claims without opposition, while right-wing sources are almost without exception blacklisted. Even the liberal-conservative Nyheter Idag is blacklisted as a source on Swedish-language Wikipedia as it is considered “right-wing”.

“Major recurring discussions among Wikipedia’s administrators and established users on how to silence especially new users who express criticism of tendentious left-wing sources have been held over the years”, he adds, noting that critics of the policy shift have been blocked and otherwise punished.

Like Larry Sanger, many oppositional actors in Sweden have noted that Wikipedia has become a political weapon, used to discredit opponents of the small core of people who in practice control the encyclopedia.

Nya Dagbladet can now reveal the identity of one of the most dedicated activists who is behind tens of thousands of edits on the platform.

Adville

One person identified as being particularly instrumental in the subversion of the Swedish Wikipedia goes by the signature “Adville”, the pseudonym of Harald Andersson. He has been an administrator at the encyclopedia since 2011, and has also been a board member of the Wikimedia Sweden association. Andersson, who now lives in the Stockholm area, is originally from Blekinge and has a background as a teacher, although he says he now works in medical and laboratory technology.

Harald Andersson in his native Blekinge. Photo: Adville/CC BY 3.0

During his years at Wikipedia, he has made as many as 50,000 edits to articles. Although many of these are non-political in nature, it is clear that Andersson is deeply involved in many politically charged issues, and that he has put a lot of energy into trying to cast dissenting voices in a negative light. In fact, it is difficult to find an article on any dissident phenomenon, organization or person in the Swedish encyclopedia where “Adville” has not been involved in editing or participating in the discussion – consistently defending the use of derogatory descriptions and negative epithets for opponents.


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Left-wing extremist intelligence group used as frequent source

Among other things, Andersson is a strong advocate of using the intelligence group around the far left intelligence group Expo as a source for articles in the encyclopedia. Despite the organization’s well-known roots in the violent left-wing extremist environment that the Swedish Security Service calls the “autonomous movement”, he not only believes that it should be considered a neutral source, but also helps to remove criticism of the intelligence group from the encyclopedia.

“I think you have misunderstood what Expo is. If you read their article, you will see that it is a foundation whose mission is to “inform the public about racism and xenophobia through the production and publication of newspapers. With this specific mission, they are not supposed to research religious extremism, although it is a very important issue. The fact that you also say that they are left-wing is contradicted by the fact that there are moderate politicians on their board. The moderates I know would never sit on the board of a left-wing organization”, he writes in a discussion.

Another ideologically influenced organization that he has dedicated himself to eliminating criticism of is the lobbying organization Vetenskap och Folkbildning (VoF), a Swedish branch of the international neo-atheist so-called “skeptic movement”.

Andersson describes his own view of “source criticism” not as referring primarily to original sources and basic facts, but to what he calls “trustworthy media”. He specifically mentions the Bonnier newspaper DN and the Swedish state television SVT as examples of what he means by this concept.

“Writing on Wikipedia requires that you have a certain level of source criticism and understand the difference between DN and SVT compared to Avpixlat. If you find it difficult to see why you should not use avpixlat, I would recommend that you go to pages on the web that deal with source criticism and study them a bit. It also allows the rest of us to work on what we usually do. Improve the encyclopedia, with good references”, he writes.

“We also don’t use ‘Hänt Extra’ or ‘Se och Hör’ (two well-known Swedish gossip magazines). This is called source criticism”, he continues.

Images taken from Harald Andersson’s Facebook profile.

Writing down dissenters

The pattern of attributing various epithets to oppositional individuals and organizations or belittling them is a common one in Andersson’s work. In the article about the member of parliament, former Sweden Democrat Elsa Widding, he changes the introduction, replacing “climate debater” with “debater” and adding the word “climate skeptic” to describe her. There is also a strong emphasis on referencing sources that say Widding is wrong in her conclusions.

Another organization that Andersson has taken great pains to discredit is Strålskyddsstiftelsen, the Swedish Radiation Protection Foundation.

“It’s been a long time since I read this article. It doesn’t seem to have gotten any love since 2010 when she was talking about how dangerous 3G was and of course electrosensitivity. There are probably many other conspiracy theories besides chemtrails that she has brought up”, he comments on the Swedish Radiation Protection Foundation’s discussion page about its chairwoman, Mona Nilsson.

“Maybe the category ‘conspiracy theorist’ should be added here, since she spreads a lot of them?”, he suggests.

Also when it comes to controversial topics such as race and intelligence, Andersson has actively tried to control the layout of articles, arbitrarily editing out information he does not want to cover – something that causes irritation among other users on Wikipedia.

“So you should decide what is relevant to write about on Wikipedia instead of objectively presenting the information and letting the reader decide what to believe?” asks user Anders den vise (Anders the wise) in a discussion.

“Adville” replies that “not all sources are equally good”, that Wikipedia’s credibility is based on “good sources”, and that a quote from a respected researcher should not be included because, in his opinion, “it can be found on almost any racist site”.

When another user asks why the article on the tabloid online newspaper Nyheter Idag contains various epithets used by the paper’s political opponents, Harald Andersson replies that the epithets are relevant because they come from “quite heavy” sources – in the form of the state-funded broadcaster SVT.

“The fact that SVT news refers to them in this way is quite heavy. But if the source had been a blog post from a left-wing party, it would have been different”.

Gatekeeping for the like-minded

On the wiki page of the left-wing extremist journalist collective Researchgruppen, Andersson has also deleted the information that Martin Fredriksson, later an informant for Säpo, was previously a member of the pro-violence group AFA.

“Fredriksson’s AFA involvement was certainly interesting, but it should be in the personal article. It is not interesting that he was a member 10 years before he joined the research group”, he claims in that case.

Another example where “Adville” appears is the article on Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) a name for the hypothesis that gender dysphoria can be caused by peer influence and social contagion. In this case, Andersson goes to war in the article editing, claiming that it is “a concept that, according to the available facts, is not relevant and has no scientific basis, just like ID and cultural Marxism”. The result is that almost the entire summary of the article ends up being about the term being “unscientific”.

“Adville” continues to appear in politically charged articles, such as the article on the American left-liberal network CNN, in which he proclaims that “CNN is an approved source and we don’t need to discuss it” and argues that it is mainly “people who don’t like neutral reporting on, say, Trump” who call the network biased.

“There is a huge difference between CNN and Fox, for example. If you don’t realize that, a lot of things get very wrong”, he explains.

For example, in the case of debater Henrik Arnstad, who has become known for his activism against the Sweden Democrats, Andersson himself wrote the article about his book “Älskade fascism: de svartbruna rörelsernas ideologi och historia” and also deleted information in the article about Arnstad indicating that he had lied about his academic qualifications and did not have a bachelor’s degree in history as he claimed at the time.

Harald “Adville” Andersson. Photo: LinkedIn

An aversion to “alternative media” is also evident in Andersson’s editing, where he claims in the article about the newspaper Nya Tider that “it is also evident in virtually all other media that this is a right-wing extremist newspaper. When another user questions the use of the epithet “right-wing extremist” in the very first sentence, “Adville” replies that “it is well sourced” and that “we should be straightforward and clear about what things are”.

“I suggest you read about Wikipedia’s source requirements before you link to far-right propaganda articles to prove that DN is not to be trusted. We have a much higher standard of reliability than ‘Nyheter idag’, ‘Exponerat’ and whatever they call themselves”, he writes in another discussion.

“Cultural Marxism”, which usually refers to the ideological movement rooted in the Marxist theorists of the so-called Frankfurt School, is another term that Harald Andersson describes as a “conspiracy theory”. Editors who question this label are advised to “read and reread the discussions in the archives, where it is clear why this is a conspiracy theory”.

“Bringing up those who believe in the conspiracy and that their ‘truth’ is just as correct is like bringing up intelligent design and equating it with evolution”, he further argues.

The overall pattern that recurs in different contexts is an almost fanatical belief in authority and a tight control over politically charged articles.

Andersson himself, however, says that he is not particularly interested in politics.

“Social issues not my field”

In a comment by phone, Harald Andersson shares a longer argument about why the intelligence group around the left-wing extremist foundation Expo should be seen as a neutral source.

Many write that Expo is left-wing extremist, but I know that there have been politicians from the Moderate Party on the board. A Moderate would never sit in a left-wing extremist organization. But Expo is not an organization, it is a foundation. Their charter is to research right-wing extremism and therefore they have become experts on right-wing extremism and they are used by both liberal-conservative and left-wing governments.

Andersson also shares other developed arguments about different actors, but adds that he is actually not interested in such social issues at all.

What I really focus on is medicine, and I like history. And then, we have neutrality. Actually, the social areas are not my area, I find it quite boring, he claims.

At the same time, he describes his motivation for editing as “because it’s fun”.

– It sounds wrong when you say it, but you get addicted. When I’m free, I sit and watch. And write.

How to find "Adville's" edits

Considering that Harald Andersson is responsible for tens of thousands of edits on the Swedish Wikipedia, it is an almost overwhelming task to go through them all. The examples highlighted in this article are just a sample of a huge amount of material.

You can see all the edits he is responsible for here.

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