Wikipedia has come a long, long way. Back when teachers and education institutions were banning it as an information source for students, did anyone think that by 2017 “the encyclopedia that anyone can edit” would gain global trust? Wikipedia had a rough start and some very public embarrassments, explains Katherine Maher, the executive director at the Wikimedia Foundation, but it has been a process of constant self-improvement.And that applies to Facebook and Fake News
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One thing that we would point to within Wikipedia is that all of the information that is presented you can scrutinize, you can understand where it comes from, you can check the citations, but you can also check almost every single edit that has ever been made to the projects in their 16 years of existence and those are more than three billion edits. All of that is available to the public. We hold ourselves up to scrutiny because we think that scrutiny and transparency creates accountability and that accountability creates trust.
When I’m looking at a Facebook feed I don’t know why information is being presented to me. Is it because it’s timely? Is it because it’s relevant? Is it because it’s trending, popular, important?
All of that is stripped out of context so it’s hard for me to assess: is it good information that I should make decisions on? Is it bad information that I should ignore? And then you think about the fact that all of the other sort of heuristics that people use to interpret information, where does it come from? Who wrote it? When was it published? All of that is obscured in the product design as well.
So the conversation that we’re having I think is a bit disingenuous because it doesn’t actually address some of the underlying platform questions and commercial pressure questions, it tends to focus on… I’m not even sure! It tends to focus on educating the end consumer, which is good. We believe in an educated user, but we also have a lot of confidence that if you give the user the information they need they can make those decisions and determinations.