Is Jimmy Wales Donald Trump

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales: "I'm the opposite of Donald Trump"


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An online encyclopedia that anyone can work on: that's the idea behind Wikipedia. Users can create, edit and add to posts. Jimmy Wales co-founded the platform in 2001 and headed the Wikimedia Foundation, the foundation behind Wikipedia, until 2006. Today he sits on the board of directors of the encyclopedia as Chairman emeritus and has set up a community-based news portal with WikiTribune. ZEIT ONLINE met him in Cape Town.

ZEIT ONLINE: Mr Wales, with Donald Trump the USA has a president who insults people on Twitter and wages a fight against the media. What annoys you most about Trump?

Jimmy Wales: (laughs) Oh dear, the current presidency ... You know, for me it's essentially about attacking the facts and the truth. That is far more important than any political disagreement. The persistent nonsense just drives me crazy. Of course I'm not telling you anything special, I'm sure a lot of people will do that. But if you come from the world of Wikipedia, where we're so passionate about facts, trying to be as precise as possible and using qualitative sources - of course we don't get it perfect, but we try - then it is Horrible to see a government doing just the opposite, creating confusion and stealing from it.

ZEIT ONLINE: In your opinion, has the verification of information gained importance under Trump?

Wales: I think so. We are seeing a development that I am very happy about, namely real opposition to the concept of fake news. Donations to Wikipedia have increased since the election. And not only with us you notice the effect, the number of subscribers to the digital New York Times has increased from one million to three million in just a few years. That's a good sign, people want quality journalism, reports that are based on facts. And they understand that this clickbait nonsense on social media isn't for the real thing. A little tabloid doesn't do any harm, but if that's the only kind of information it's not enough to understand the world.



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ZEIT ONLINE: False news is still spread through the network. Do you see more attacks on Wikipedia entries, i.e. more attempts to spread false information?

Wales: Not really. The right fake news institutions have almost no influence on Wikipedia, because Wikipedians attach great importance to qualitative sources. When a headline like "Pope supports Trump" makes the rounds on social networks, Wikipedians say, "Hmm, that's unusual, because the Pope doesn't support politicians." You would research the source and maybe it would be something like that Denver Guardian. They would not have heard of the source yet, so they would continue to research and find that the source quoted does not exist. Incidentally, this is one of the ways fake news spreads: Denver Guardian sounds like a real newspaper, so many don't check the website and just happily share articles.

ZEIT ONLINE: How do you ensure that such texts are not quoted after all? Is there some kind of black list of Wikipedia publications that are not recognized as a reliable source?

Wales: Yes and no. It's a bit complicated, there is some kind of spam filter with URLs that cannot be put on Wikipedia. For example, if someone posts thousands of URLs to their stupid, pop-up cluttered website, those URLs come on the list and we say it's not a source. I don't know if this is used for proper fake news sites, probably to a small extent, but mostly it's an editorial judgment. There was quite a fuss about them a while ago Daily Mail in England. There the Wikipedia community in England said that the Daily Mail is not a reliable source. But there is no software ban on Wikipedia. This means that the newspaper does not prefer the source as people know that it mostly brings inflammatory nonsense. But of course there are cases when she does journalism and you do the Daily Mail would quote.

ZEIT ONLINE: What about a right-wing medium like Breitbart News - is that a reliable source according to Wikipedia?

Wales: It depends. There are situations when Breitbart has something that nobody else has. I haven't seen a link to Breitbart as a source myself, but there is sure to be one.