Facebook, Twitter mishandled Trump, says Wikipedia founder
NEWS DIGEST – Twitter and Facebook repeatedly mishandled Donald Trump as he pushed baseless claims, including his assertion that US presidential election he lost was rigged, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told AFP.
The two social media giants indefinitely suspended Trump after his supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, an attack on the seat of democracy that on Wednesday led to Trump’s second impeachment.
Wales told AFP in an interview to mark Wikipedia’s 20th anniversary on Friday that responsibility for the unprecedented events in Washington rested “100 percent at the feet of Donald Trump”.
But he said Twitter and Facebook had consistently “struggled with misinformation, disinformation” peddled by the firebrand former New York real estate tycoon who is due to leave office next week.
“With Donald Trump, they did a poor job of dealing with him for a very, very long time,” Wales said. “He was clearly spreading disinformation, he was clearly being abusive to people.”
– Eyeballs v knowledge –
In the 20 years since it was founded, Wikipedia is now one of the most popular websites in the world, with in excess of 55 million articles in 300 languages. It is read more than 15 billion times every month.
It is also, as Wales first envisaged, “a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge”.
The internet entrepreneur’s decision in 2003 to make the site non-profit is one reason he believes Wikipedia has not faced the same backlash and difficult decisions as Twitter or Facebook.
“They (social media platforms) have a business model that says, ‘We need as many eyeballs as possible, we need as many page views as possible’,” the 54-year-old said.
“Now it’s also damaging for their brand. So they have to deal with that. But I think they’re going to struggle.”
Facebook and Twitter have become closely associated with the deeply divisive culture wars in the United States and the spread of misinformation worldwide.
In contrast, Wikipedia is considered one of the last examples of early web utopianism, supporters say.
In the early 2000s, though, falsehoods and user vandalism on Wikipedia sparked a debate on web regulation.
But the online resource is now more likely to be held up as an example of the best the internet has to offer, the American-British entrepreneur says.
“I always say, we were never as bad as they said we were and we’re not as good as they think we are,” he said.
“But we still know Wikipedia isn’t perfect. We still have a lot of work to do.”