Is WikiTribune the answer to fake news?
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has launched a crowd-funding campaign for WikiTribune. A “wiki-style” attack on the fake news by using professional journalists and community contributors to produce “fact-checked, global news stories”.
Fakes news and the role that social media networks play in spreading has resulted in several suggestions about ways to combat these problems. There are fact checking networks where humans flag news and even sites that are spreading false news. Google, Facebook and Twitter have made attempts to tweak their algorithms to combat the problems related to fake news. This tweaking is not to be the same as censorship rather “. . . a bit like a spam folder in your email, those emails still sit there, but you have to go to your spam folder to look for it,” says Claire Wardle of journalism non-profit First Draft News.
Yet, perhaps the involvement of humans is needed to deal with a problem of this character. At least at the moment, a combination of algorithms and human experience might provide the best solution.
Photo: Hrag Vartanian
WikiTribune relies only on humans and an army of contributors will help individual journalists vet the facts by using a wide range of sources such as transcripts, videos and audio interviews. The business model is based on monthly subscriptions that will help to pay the journalists.
This sounds like a good idea, yet, there are of course always problems when you look for the truth (see Greyscale Thinking). What happens if the professional journalists start writing about the news that the subscribers do not like? Supporters are asked to put forward suggestions on topics, and what happens if the topics suggested are put forward by extreme organisations that what to highlight their own issues?
Articles are only going to be published on WikiTribune if the facts can be verified. This sounds great but there is also a danger in restricting the topics. In today’s world, news both true and fake is quickly spread around the globe. In some cases, you want a quick response to certain kind of news, for example, during an election. An election campaign is by its nature filled with propaganda.
Jimmy says that WikiTribune is “news by the people and for the people”. Professional journalists and citizen journalists working together checking and re-checking facts. The community is given an important role, however, finding a balance between the contributions of professional journalists and the community is the main issue.
Also, reaching the people who have already fallen into the fake news vortex is going to be extremely tricky with this approach. Perhaps WikiTribune will be supported and read by individuals who need it the least. People who already have developed the skills and are using tools to spot fake news.