Those past months, we’ve been hearing about Jimmy Wales’ ambition to create Wikitribune, a system that analyzes potential fake news to sort out the truth from the junk. Wikitribune claims to deliver exclusively “evidence-based” information, or put more simply “true news”. While I have a lot of respect for what’s been built over at Wikimedia & co, there’s one thing that Wikipedia is not: A reliable source of true information when it comes to controversial topics.
On Wikipedia, in case of a disagreement among the contributors of an article, two top principles are supposed to self-handedly manage the feud :
NPOV (neutrality of point of view): NPOV is reached by bringing up all verifiable POVs on a given topic, instead of working towards a more elaborated way to filter the controversial info.
Consensus by majority: In case of disagreement between the contributors of an article, a consensus must be reached in the discussion page before going any further. Thus the biggest group represented wins, regardless of the veracity of each party’s arguments, because it forms its own consensus (like a leading majority in politics).
Therefore, on Wikipedia, the biggest group of opinion represented can win over any battle of opinion because it will have the lead on controversial editorial decisions. And since NPOV is defined as nothing more than a patchwork of POVs, the winning majority will have the entire freedom to define how that’s going to be applied. In some cases, the minority abandons the field and the Wikipedia article becomes nothing more than a feast of biased and misleading information.
Needless to mention that when a leading party on Wikipedia also has connections in the press, the barriers of Wikipedia against distorted or fake news become useless (because if the press says it, it’s true). Wikipedia is a great vehicle of knowledge, but it certainly is not a conveyor of truth in any way. Therefore, there is no logical reason for Jimmy Wales to launch Wikitribune, because he has nothing to back it up with.
Source of featured image: The ‘Undue Weight’ of Truth on Wikipedia, which is also a great article to read on that topic.