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Wikipedia Editors Have Been Arguing About Travis Kalanick’s Nipples for 3 Years

Flickr/David Mican

For two years, I've watched Wikipedia editors sporadically comment on Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's nipples, which currently appear on his Wikipedia page.

Travis Kalanick. Image: Wikipedia/cellanr

"As amusing as that photo is," asked Wikipedia user Zlama in November 2014, "is it really appropriate?"

"I have to agree, I think an appropriate image should replace this whilst retaining the current image within the commons," replied another user named Bolkonsk.


They're referring to the portrait of Kalanick in the infobox on his Wikipage. His nipples are clearly visible through a thin, mustard-color shirt. Is this wrong? No, of course not. #FreeTheNipple. We all got 'em. And the road to market domination is a cold one.

Image: Wikipedia

This important discourse played out on the Talk Page of Kalanick's profile. For Wikipedia neophytes, every page has its own Talk Page, which is where users can debate the merits of certain edits. On Kalanick's, for example, one editor brought up the apocryphal story of Kalanick being ranked number two in "Wii Tennis." Another suggested the addition of Uber's alleged criminal activity through the use of its "Greyball" program. (I will say though, that for a public figure, Kalanick's Talk Page is oddly barren.)

Screenshot: Wikipedia

Screenshot: Wikipedia

Over the course of several years, users timidly inquired about Kalanick's nipples. Yet, no one ever changed the photo. Wikipedia's image use policy states that all photos must be either freely licensed, in the public domain, fair use, or permitted for use by the copyright holder.

There are plenty of other photos of Kalanick that qualify. A quick search on Flickr reveals dozens of fair use, high-resolution options. But according to the image's global file usage, the nipple photo is currently used on nine other Wikipages for Kalanick. On Uber's own Wikipage, yet another—and, in my opinion, aesthetically better—photo of Kalanick exists. It'd be a cinch to swap the old one out.


It's entirely possible, however, that nobody cares about this as much as I do. And, despite being edited an average of 11 times per month, Kalanick's profile just doesn't get that much traffic.

But it is curious that Uber, a notoriously image-conscious company, hasn't dispatched someone to update Kalanick's portrait to something more professional-looking. This isn't uncommon. Wikipedia has long struggled with "black hat" editors who are paid by brands to post flattering information on corporate Wikipages. In 2015, hundreds of these sockpuppet accounts were banned from the site.

Whatever the case, for now, Kalanick's nipples are here to stay. And while there's nothing inherently sexual or inappropriate about nipples, Kalanick himself has the mindset of a sex-obsessed teenager. Maybe he finds the nipples funny, too.

UPDATE: June 12, 2017

I just noticed that someone updated Travis Kalanick's Wikipage photo on June 11, 2017. Wikipedia user Czar, a seasoned editor and the person behind the change, cited "much better color in more recent photo" as the reason for their edit. No mention was made of the nipples.

UPDATE: June 23, 2017

Wikipedia editor Czar told us in an email on June 23, 2017 that they are unaffiliated with Uber.