Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales took part in a fantastic interview with NPR over the weekend. Here’s a highlight from the piece:
Jimmy Wales, co-founder of the crowdsourced encyclopedia, has been thinking about how to tackle the problem of “fake news.” On Thursday, he delivered a keynote address on “the future role for evidence-based journalism” at the Westminster Media Forum, an international conference organized by the British Parliament.
In the face of false information, Wales still believes that the more open and connected people are online, the better things will be for everyone.
“In this era, where we’ve seen the rise of these fake news websites and so forth, Wikipedia has had almost no problems with this at all,” Wales says. “Simply because our community is quite — you know, it’s their hobby to debate about the quality of sources, and it’s very difficult to fool the Wikipedia community with this.”
In other words, Wikipedia’s policy and the culture of the contributors (i.e. the people) help curtail fake news because they emphasize the quality of the sources.
Wales seems to think that fake news would go away as a problem if people were simply more “skeptical” about sharing questionable stories. I’m not sure if that’s enough to solve the problem because it focuses more on the gullible parties than the perpetrators of fake news. But I do think that the Wikipedian culture of debating the quality of sources is an important idea that needs to continue to spread.
Read more of the Wales interview about Wikipedia and fake news over at NPR.