Jimmy Wales' Next Act Is to Fight the Scourge of Fake News
Jimmy Wales in 2011. Image: Ewan McIntosh/Flickr

Jimmy Wales' Next Act Is to Fight the Scourge of Fake News

The man behind Wikipedia wants to help fix the news business, if not society itself, from the corrosive effects of fake news. Will his plan work?
April 25, 2017, 7:00pm

"The news is broken, but we've figured out how to fix it," Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales boldly declares in a video announcing the creation of WikiTribune, a news platform that will allow "an army of volunteers" to curate and fact-check articles written by journalists, all in a bid to "fight fake news."

Reports of the upcoming service—which is set to be rolled out in 29 days once its crowdfunding campaign ends (it's unclear how much they plan to raise)—exploded across social media channels yesterday and today, to tentative acclaim:

But not everyone's on board with the idea of turning an untrained public into an editing force.

David Kaplan, an adjunct journalism professor at NYU and contributing editor at Newsweek, told Motherboard that while he applauds WikiTribune's intent, he is "skeptical the model will do much to solve the problem of fake news."

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"At some level, crowdfunded journalism is an oxymoron," he wrote in an email. "The best journalism requires editorial judgment, selectivity, curating. The idea that reportage and analysis can be done by anybody—just as long as professionals oversee 'neutrality' and 'facts'—strikes me as unrealistic."

The service is purportedly "100 percent ad-free" and paywall-less to guarantee the neutrality of the news and is free to access for all readers. However, those who choose to subscribe will have the chance to suggest topics they would like to see covered.

The underlying concept is that "community and journalists are equals," the WikiTribune site reads. Basically, the public will not be relegated to the comment section but will have the chance to play an active role in the creation of news.

"WikiTribune is news by the people and for the people," Wales told The Verge.

In the wake of a fake news storm that came to head to a head during the last US election, many news providers have stepped up their game to weed out false or unreliable coverage. Facebook offered tips to users for spotting suspicious information. And today, Google's joined the fray by pledging to improve its search engine algorithm and provide users tools to report misleading or offensive content.

In the meantime, we may still have to contend with pizzagates.