Wikitribune uses volunteers to fight fake news
DISRUPTORS: The ideas changing industries
Wikipedia is launching an online publication that combines professional journalists with volunteers to combat the spread of misinformation. As the reliability of digital news is being thrown into question, Wikitribune is attempting to regain people’s trust in the media. We explore the insights behind why Wikitribune is relying on volunteers to verify facts in the wake of a fake news epidemic.
Wikitribune’s content will be created by experts with an army of volunteers able to verify, flag or fix articles they believe to contain false information. “This will be the first time that professional and citizen journalists will work side-by-side as equals, writing stories as they happen, editing them live as they develop, and at all times backed by a community checking and rechecking all facts,” says Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. The service will be free, devoid of ads, and supported by “people who care about good journalism.” It’s important that it’s Wikipedia, and not a lesser-known platform that’s taking this initiative; Wikipedia is many people’s first port of call when they want to brush up on a topic or get background information.
With global trust at an all-time-low, steps to combat unreliable and untrue information online have already been taken by Facebook in the launch of its Journalism Project, which lets people flag suspected fake news, and the Wiki Education foundation announced a collaboration with universities to ensure Wikipedia’s reliability. Given that Gen Zers are already using multiple news sources to verify what they read, Wikitribune saves them the effort by putting all those sources in one place.
Big brands like Google and Facebook have been critiqued for taking a backseat as people use their platforms for destructive behaviour – only 43% of people globally say they trust the media – and Wikitribune forms part of a wider effort to keep online content trustworthy. These companies are increasingly the lens through which people see the world, so there’s the expectation that their content will be correct and unbiased. By actively taking responsibility for the content that’s published on its site, Wikipedia steps up to the plate and demonstrates its commitment to maintaining its reputation as a reliable source people can safely get their facts from.
Charles Pickering is a researcher at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. He previously completed a Master’s degree in cognitive and evolutionary anthropology at Oxford, and loves a good dataset.