London, United Kingdom:
Twitter and Facebook have repeatedly mismanaged Donald Trump as he pushed baseless claims, including his claim that the US presidential election he lost was rigged, TBEN told TBEN. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
The two social media giants suspended Trump indefinitely after his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan.6, an attack on the Democracy Seat that led to Trump’s second impeachment on Wednesday.
Wales told TBEN in an interview for Wikipedia’s 20th anniversary on Friday that responsibility for the unprecedented events in Washington lay “100 percent at the feet of Donald Trump.”
But he said Twitter and Facebook had consistently “fought against disinformation, disinformation” being peddled by the former New York real estate mogul who is due to step down next week.
“With Donald Trump, they treated him badly for a very, very long time,” Wales said. “He was clearly spreading disinformation, he was clearly abusive towards people.”
Eyeball v knowledge
In the 20 years since its inception, Wikipedia is today one of the most popular websites in the world, with over 55 million articles in 300 languages. It is read over 15 billion times per month.
It is also, as Wales first envisioned, “a world in which every person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge”.
The Internet entrepreneur’s decision in 2003 to make the site a non-profit is one reason he believes Wikipedia hasn’t faced the same backlash and tough decisions that Twitter or Facebook has.
“They (the social media platforms) have a business model that says, ‘We need as many eyeballs as possible, we need as many pageviews as possible,” “said the 54-year-old. .
“Now it’s also damaging for their brand. So they have to face this. But I think they’re going to have a hard time. “
Facebook and Twitter have become closely associated with the culture wars that deeply divide the United States and the spread of disinformation around the world.
In contrast, Wikipedia is considered one of the last examples of early Web utopianism, supporters say.
In the early 2000s, however, lies and user vandalism on Wikipedia sparked a debate over regulating the web.
But the online resource is now more likely to be touted as an example of the best the internet has to offer, says the US-UK entrepreneur.
“I always say we’ve never been as bad as they said we were and we’re not as good as they think we are,” he said.
“But we still know Wikipedia isn’t perfect. We still have a lot of work to do.”
“Build to last”
Wales is also aware that Wikipedia is fundamentally different from social media platforms.
“We have a very clear mission to create an encyclopedia. So everything we do, we judge against that standard, ”he said.
“(It’s) a very different mission statement from a social network that says, come post what you think, post your opinions.
“Because the truth is, a lot of people have really horrible opinions.”
Wales admits that Wikipedia still has challenges to overcome and has been faced with questions about the diversity of the thousands of “Wikipedians” – the community of editors and administrators who keep the site running.
In 2021, Wikipedia will implement a uniform code of conduct with corresponding sanctions against insults and harassment, which have targeted minority groups within the community in the past, in all 300 of its different language versions.
Wales said wording of the code of conduct “took longer than it should have” but that was because the community was so large “it takes a long time to sort out things and get buy-in and understanding. “
The goal for the next 20 years, however, will be remarkably similar for the first two decades.
In 2006, Wales set a goal of having 100,000 Wikipedia entries for each language with over one million speakers.
“We are still at least 20 years away,” he said.
He hopes, ultimately, to have created an institution that will endure, like the British University of Oxford – the oldest in the English-speaking world, whose roots go back to the end of the 11th century.
“We are really focused on how to build an institution that can last,” said Wales. “We really want to be that sort of thing in society for a long time.”