For-profit corporations funding the only source of information for millions of people that they still don’t control? What could possibly go wrong?
The executive director of Wikimedia Foundation said yesterday on Wired that:
- big tech companies are going to use Wikipedia as a resource, they should better support its important work
- YouTube and Facebook have turned to Wikipedia to address their issues around fake news and conspiracy theories.
- As companies draw on Wikipedia for knowledge – and as a bulwark against bad information – we believe they too have an opportunity to be generous.
Now, what follows is surely obvious, but the more it is spelled out the better.
First, excuse me for worrying that “support” would eventually become “control”. Not explicitly, of course. Not in the form of Facebook or Google committes concretely censoring Wikipedia pages for sure. But depending for your daily operations from people who have the power to filter what shapes your wikipedia editing capabilities doesn’t seem smart to me.
Second, hiring Wikipedia as “a bulwark against bad information” is a bit too much like sponsoring firefighters to put out the fires you cause by throwing still burning cigarette butts in the bushes. Or like selling alcohol bundled with bottled water, so people can drink the latter to avoid getting drunk.
If “bad information” is such a problem is because YouTube, Facebook etc… NEED to keep people as engaged as possible, and the most effective ways there is is continuously throwing “bad” (as in polarizing, reinforcing prejudices etc..) information at them.
That is a business model that shouldn’t exist. It is a business model that, even if it were possible, it would be pointless to regulate, nationalize or “replace with a cooperative”. It is a model that should be replaces as soon as possible by either this proposal of mine or any similar alternative.
Having any for-profit organization as a main sponsor of something like Wikipedia is troublesome in any case, but I sincerely believe that we would all be much better off if those kind of organizations were the last ones to chip in.
(*) Images derived from Dank Memes and Gifs