Social Media

Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales Has Already Solved the Internet's Problems

The online encyclopedia's decentralized, Hayekian approach provides a model for Elon Musk as he assumes control of Twitter.


Wikipedia, "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit," went from being a weird online experiment 21 years ago to one of the mainstays of the modern internet with astonishing speed. Even more astonishing, it has maintained its reputation and functionality since its founding, even as the rest of the social internet seems hellbent on tearing itself apart.

As Twitter, Facebook, and others are consumed with controversy over moderation, governance, and the definition of free speech, Wikipedia continues to quietly grow in utility, trustworthiness, and comprehensiveness; there are now nearly 6.5 million articles on the English version alone and it has held its place in the top 15 most visited sites on the internet for well over a decade.

Reason spoke with Wikipedia co-founder, Jimmy Wales, who was predictably modest about what he got right. A key ingredient to Wikipedia's success is its high degree of decentralization. After this interview was conducted, Elon Musk made a bid to buy Twitter, bringing new salience to the battle over who controls the flow of information (and disinformation) online.

Reason last spoke with Wales 15 years ago, and the resulting profile ended up becoming a source for Wales' own Wikipedia entry. At that time, we talked about the future of online speech, improving the algorithms that shape our lives, and the role that Friedrich Hayek played in Wales' thinking. This conversation picked up where we left off.

Interview by Katherine Mangu-Ward; edited by Adam Czarnecki; intro by John Osterhoudt

Photo: Lino Mirgeler/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom

NEXT: How 'Cranks' Advance Science

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  1. Wikipedia is such a crap show of political infighting where one side has garnered more powers over the other that its founder has called it out as essentially worthless and too biased.

    Wiki literally will allow a lie to stay on a wiki entry if it is supported by a mainstream media newspaper even if the primary person the fact is about says it is wrong (this happened to Tim Pool, the paper never corrected a lie about him).

    Wiki will dismiss links to all sorts of right leaning media sites if it contradicts a view of an already linked left leaning site, removing wording that there are differing views.

    Wiki is terrible.

    The author should feel bad. Wiki's issues have been documented for a decade now.

    1. Very specifically, the editors of Wikipedia are horrible. As an idea, it is cool. But leftists never met something cool that they did not want to devour from the inside and wear as a skin suit.

    2. Absolutely. They are as woke as any other self-anointed gatekeeper.

    3. Remember according to Wikipedia socialism never killed anybody

      1. Well, strictly speaking it was teh socialists who did the killing.

    4. Can it be taken over from the left? We really need to look for. Ore opportunities to take social media and ‘news’ outlets away from the democrats. Imagine if they had to survive without having a monopoly on news. They would be crushed all the time. Which is the way it should be.

    5. Correct. I was a Wikipedia in the late 2010s when it at least tried to be balanced.

      It is controlled by the left now. And Jimmy Wales let it happen.

      The "reliable source" policy provides a useful excuse. If the NYT or WaPo say something, even if every person with common sense knows it to be BS, then that makes it into the Wikipedia page.

    6. Amen. Wikipedia is the epitome of what happens when swarms of blue-hairs assume editorial control: Leftist slant abides and snuffs out all dissenting opinion.

    7. Wikipedia was captured by woketards before even Facebook. Fortunately there are alternatives, including forks such as

      Whoever wrote this needs to quit huffing his own farts.

    8. "The online encyclopedia's decentralized, Hayekian approach provides a model for Elon Musk as he assumes control of Twitter.
      it has maintained its reputation and functionality since its founding,"

      What a clueless asshat. This is so absurd I wonder if it's just another Marxist rubbing our noses in yet another Big Lie.

      Wikipedia is the case study for how Marxists take over an institution. Relentless in-group preference and out-group attack. It's pure Leftist propaganda, controlled by a coterie of Leftist gatekeepers.

      I wish there were functional reporters somewhere in media.

      They'd ask Wales, who was at least once upon a time an Objectivist, how he feels about his baby being kidnapped by whim worshipping collectivists.

      I wonder. Has Wales gone over to the Deconstructionist Side too?

      1. Wikipedia talks a nice game about being a charitable, unbiased organization. But it’s worth noting that the website’s budget is now $126 million and its list of benefactors includes the likes of the Johnson & Johnson Matching Gifts Program, Pfizer Foundation Matching Gifts Program, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    9. "Wikipedia continues to quietly grow in utility, trustworthiness..." I nearly screamed when I read that line.
      My experience trying to edit a Wikipedia article convinced me Wikipedia was totally corrupted and beyond hope. The founder of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger, left the organization years ago, calling it “Broken beyond repair.”

      I'm afraid too many people believe Musk is a good guy. Keep an eye out for him. He's extremely dangerous.

      1. Oh, come now, ... any sentence containing "Wikipedia" and "trustworthiness" is obvious satire. Ms. Mangu-Ward must be a guest on loan from the Babylon Bee!

  2. To be kind....what the fuck are you on about here?

    Wikipedia is not a trusted site for anything but the most obscure nonsense that nobody cares about. No significant topic is viewed in anything but one specific viewpoint and that has been the problem for years.

    Wikipedia is a useless tool as false information can be posted and it is virtually impossible to remove. Their determination alone of what is a "trusted" news source assures that one narrative alone is available.

    Anybody trusting Wikipedia on anything is a moron.

    1. Wikipedia is not a trusted site for anything but the most obscure nonsense that nobody cares about.

      That, or on niche engineering/ technical subjects that haven't been politicized (yet). Maybe that's included under the umbrella of "obscure nonsense that nobody cares about." But whatever, I agree that this write up is trash. I haven't watched the video yet, so maybe it's better than the article makes it sound, but I kind of doubt it.

      1. Thing is, non-centralized sounds like a great idea.

        Wikipedia, in no way, is de-centralized. They have a VERY centralized structure.

      2. Agreed as to obscure technical information. When I was still practicing patent law, I would routinely use stuff from Wikipedia in the background section of patent applications. It was quick and dirty, and being on Wikipedia, was already in the public domain, so no issues with admissions of otherwise new material being old.

    2. I'd say it's still pretty good for most non-controversial topics. You shouldn't trust anything in it absolutely, but it's a good starting point fort a lot of things.

    3. It's pretty useful. Just don't go there for info on celebrities, politicians, or the current thing.

  3. I have a better suggestion. Elon should troll all the lefties and for the first month or two, run Twitter EXACTLY like they did except for the flip side of the ideology.

    Ban people who promote trans acceptance, put "unsafe link" warnings on links to pro gun control articles, the whole thing.

    Watch all their fucking heads explode together

    1. Watch all their fucking heads explode together

      Here's a handy visual aid of what that may look like.

    2. That's not going to happen despite what you think. Elon is too savvy of a business guy. All he is going to do is open the doors a bit wider to allow in some alt-right nutters and probably some more left-wing nutters. No one will subscribe to them and life will go on.

      1. I wonder if Elon is just yanking their chains.
        The deal doesn't consummate for months, and getting out of his option to buy will only cost him 1bil. Meanwhile, Elon gets access to all historical internal comms.
        If he *decides* to, he can burn Twitter to the ground.
        And when he does so, he can spend a tiny fraction of the purchase price to fire up his own personally owned social media tech.
        That is what I'm hoping for.

    3. It's a pity he can't add a "Slap SJW" button so that you can make a hand come through the screen and pimp slap the silly bastards.

  4. Jimmy Wales would be a great libertarian voice for imagining how tech could transform governance. Because the swamp can only imagine tech used for centralization and surveillance. And far too many libertarians are trapped in silly anarchist notions.

    1. I wonder if we are related?

  5. You should talk to Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia to get some alternative viewpoints on it. He is much more critical of what Wikipedia has become, and he's articulate in his speaking.

    1. Here is Reason even telling the story of how Wales edited his own Wiki article to edit Larry Sanger out.

      1. Thanks for posting this link. Hats off to Stossel for testing Wikipedia's neutrality failures and confronting Wales.

    2. Wikipedia is a great site and Sanger is just jealous he couldn't make anything as successful. If you don't like wikipedia then make a similar website that does have all the "correct" information that you are implying that is out there. Let the market decide like a true libertarian would. Will you win in the market of ideas? Hmmm?

      1. I have absolutely nothing to back the following defamatory statement, no links or stories or proof etc., so I'll pretend I'm writing for Wikipedia and say it anyway, '.... Sanger is just jealous he couldn't make anything as successful....'

  6. trivial reference certainly. wiki every time for pablum.

  7. " has maintained its reputation..."

    Clearly the author knows nothing about Wikipedia.

  8. So there are two Wikipedias?
    Because the one I get is constantly being edited further and further left.
    Interesting note concerning Wikipedia;
    This is the text I captured April 15th.
    At this time (1665), there were only about 300 people of African origin living in the Virginia Colony, about 1% of an estimated population of 30,000. The first group of 20 or so Africans were brought to Jamestown in 1619 as indentured servants. After working out their contracts for passage money to Virginia and completing their indenture, each was granted 50 acres (20 ha) of land (headrights). This enabled them to raise their own tobacco or other crops.
    This is how it now reads
    At this time, there were only about 300 people of African origin living in the Virginia Colony, about 1% of an estimated population of 30,000. The first group of 20 or so Africans were brought to Point Comfort in 1619 as enslaved Africans. After working between 15 and 30 years, most were granted their freedom to purchase land and start their own homestead.
    (this bit has been added)
    Although most historians believe slavery, as an institution, developed much later, they differ on the exact status of their servitude before slavery was established, as well as differing over the date when this took place. The colonial charter entitled English subjects and their children the rights of the common law, but people of other nations were considered foreigners or aliens outside the common law. At the time, the colony had no provision for naturalizing foreigners.

    Welcome to the revolution!

    A bit more – – – –
    The changes were made on October 29, 2020:
    Major restatements were from ‘indentured servant’ to ‘enslaved African’, from ‘Jamestown’ to ‘Point Comfort’ (perhaps to avoid searches including Jamestown? Point Comfort is 40 miles downriver from Jamestown), from ‘granted land’ to ‘granted their freedom to purchase land’ (after serving an indenture, they were free by law, and no granting of the freedom to purchase was needed).

  9. wikipedia is a dumpster fire of leftist propaganda. the only thing remotely valid in it is the death dates of death of celebrities. what is what happens when you let everyone in

    1. You're just mad because you realize that most editors there aren't alt-right Trump disciples lmfao. Start your own wikipedia if you don't like it.

      1. Or we could just take over this one.

        1. Yep. Fuck the democrats. Let’s just keep taking their shit away from them. I like to make them hurt.

          1. Go ahead and try. You have big ideas, but you're not doing anything about it.

        2. Go ahead, editing is open to anyone, at least until you make an ass of yourself. Do it. Please do it. Let us know how it goes for you 🙂

      2. Shut the fuck up you dog fucker.

  10. I love wikipedia. I hate the political stuff on there but the technical stuff is great. I know you guys hate it because it doesn't suck Trump's dick but it has a purpose and it is completely paid for and solvent. Wales is doing a great job. He has a definite libertarian streak in him. If you don't like how it's written start you own wikipedia. The formula for a successful version is right there for anyone.

  11. Lot of people bitching about the liberal slant there. Wikipedia is a nonprofit business founded/headed by a liberal. If you don't like its leaning then you are free to make an alt-right version of it to assuage your wiki need and wiki anger.

    1. What if Elon buys it, will you feel the same?

    2. Yeah, lots of people like to complain and wish it were more objective, but it sure beats replacing your Encylopedia Brittanica or World Book Encyclopedia every few years.

    3. They already did. But no one uses it. Not even conservatives use Conservapedia.

      1. Political hackery as an "encyclopedia" is pointless for all.

        1. That's literally the complaint about Wikipedia, it's political hackery

      2. Conservapedia was a good laugh for a while. But it's really from a pretty specific conservative Christian POV, so it was never going to win over a broad audience. It was never a serious attempt to replace Wikipedia. I could see a more mainstream conservative like Praeger or someone doing a better job. The problem, I think, is that leftists are just way more motivated to be activist in all their online endeavors. And more interested in censoring alternative points of view.

        1. " I could see a more mainstream conservative like Praeger or someone doing a better job."

          So much for decentralization.

    4. Why are you making so many separate threads in this comment section saying the same thing? Surely you trying to ream the right while praising the left can be kept to the first post you made doing it.

      Unless you were supposed to post under a different name each time and forgot. A lot of people claim there are sock-puppet accounts all over the place here, so I can never be too sure.

      1. Because there are no rules against it. If there are, please point them out, and actions can be taken.

    5. We can just take it away from your pals.

  12. Uh, huh. The only permitted moderation that gives a left slant to every article (at least for history, politics, biography, climate science, abortion, ..). That's Reason's 'solved the Internet's Problems'

    Go on, pull the other one.

    1. They did because Jimmy Wales showed you how to get it done. Now go start your own but put a conservative slant on it and see how it goes. Rent a couple cloud servers and go at it! The software for wikipedia is open source and free for you to grab off a repo and go to town.

      1. Writing six and a half million articles is a lot to ask of a conservative.

    1. More proof that Stossel is the only libertarian left at Reason.

      1. From the article he mentions that Wikipedia says the NY post and federalist are not reliable sources, but slate vox Jacobi an and mother Jones are.

        Has stossel read reason in the last 7 years? They have the same trash standard

        1. The problem is who doesn’t

    2. Thanks for the link. I also found this article frankly bizarre. Either KMW didn't bother to research the subject at all or she's being ridiculously dishonest. Even by Reason standards.

  13. Wikipedia is a good model for handling contentious subjects in a public forum? Is this part of some “April Nitwits’ Day” tradition of which I was unaware?

    1. It's KMW

  14. This title is a joke - right?

  15. I saw Stossel's YouTube video on Wikipedia's moderation policies this morning that gave a much different conclusion. On political issues, Wikipedia's editing has been wholly captured by far left wing disinformation because it's model is vulnerable to bad actors with sheer bloody minded determination to the articles on their group's message. When Stossel pressed Wales about this problem, Wales ghosted him. Wikipedia has not found a good or even a workable solution to moderation on subjects where there is any controversy and passion about the subject for at least one side. It is not a reliable source of accurate information.

      1. Speaking of which, has John Stossel been purged from Reason? I can't see any reference to his videos on the site.

    1. Wikipedia has only solved the Inernet's problems if you believe Vox, Slate, Mother Jones, The Nation and Jacobin are "generally reliable" sources of news...

      ...Oh, yes I see now...that explains the headline.

  16. Who hates Wikipedia? Conspiracy mongers.

    Back in the 9/11 Troof era not a day didn't go by that someone wasn't accusing Wikipedia of being part of the cover up. If an article didn't match the narrative that a conspiratoid had, then it was obviously hiding stuff. Ditto for Snopes.

    But time has shown that Wikipedia continues to be fair and balanced in a way that FOX News can only dream of being. Both sides of an issue are covered. But if you can't verify a fact then the best you can hope for is a mention that it's not a fact. This still enrages a lot of people who don't want verified facts, but want narrative validation instead.

    Thus we got the totally pointless Conservapedia. Why? Because objectivity and the sourcing of facts was seen as a bias against conservatism. Wikipedia is not about narratives it's about verified and sourced facts. Even the controversies are covered, both sides. But they are called out as controversies and sides are not taken unless they can be backed up.

    Facts over narratives. If you have alternate facts, and can verify them with sources, then absolutely nothing is stopping you from getting edits into Wikipedia. But those sources are going to be examined. Narratives don't mean shit, facts do. It's not just edits, it's sources and verification. Slapping in a link to PrisonPlanet as your source isn't going to pass muster.

    Also, edit wars get stuff locked down. Which is why a lot of entries of a political nature are locked down. This is sensible. If something truthful (as in verified and sourced) is missing and you are unable to edit a page, you can still find ways to get that information to an editor. It does NOT mean you are being silenced. It does NOT mean there is a liberal bias. It just means that "holy shit people are fighting over this page, let's lock it down until things have settled".

    In the end if the facts don't match your narrative, it's time to take a hard look at your narrative.

    1. Who hates Wikipedia? Conspiracy mongers.

      Or people who have ever read the edit page and dont' take information in blindly.

      1. To Brandybuck, People who show judgment and reasoning, who critique information given to them, do not immediately support their “betters” when they are dispensing propaganda, are conspiracy mongers.

        Seriously, a major point is that the sources Wikipedia excepts, are blatantly biased, (not even getting to the Demonstratable unreliability of said sources), should be enough to embarrass any supposedly sapient, attempting to use Wikipedia as a an unimpeachable fount of knowledge.

    2. That's a lot of words to say "I believe every lie the leftists who edit Wikipedia tell me, and so should you".

      Maybe when Ward is done rimming Wales for her corporate bosses, he'll let you finish up.

  17. This is just embarrassing. Wikipedia's accuracy and bias problems aren't exactly a state secret. Hell, a longtime Reason contributor documented them just this morning. Do you really wonder why so many libertarians don't take Reason particularly seriously? The best advice I can give you, at this point, is to stop calling yourselves libertarians. You're giving the rest of us a bad name.

    1. Ward's not a libertarian. She's an employee of the Reason Foundation, a subsidiary of Koch Industries.

      Once Trump decided that he was going to punish China for predatory trade practices, Koch decided its bottom line mattered more than freedom and went left. And the last few years show that most of their employees knew to follow suit if they wanted to stay in their bosses' good graces.

  18. If you want to see how Wikipedia has devolved in the area of Politics into a very biased view watch the John Stossel YouTube video entitled "Wikipedia's Bias". Jimmy stopped talking to John Stossel when he didn't like the probing questions. I'm disappointed to see Reason didn't really take a deeper look into this before publishing this article.

  19. Wikipedia? Eww.

  20. How many new editors would it take to sort of take over Wikipedia?

  21. If you don't like Wikipedia's woke bias stop donating to support it. I did.

    1. Who donates to it in the first place?

  22. Have you actually used Wikipedia? It's as woke as twitter.

  23. Wiki is as censored as any other lefty site.

    1. Only instead of an editorial board or a content moderation team, it's an army of woke gatekeepers that have nothing better to do than to patrol their pet articles for edits and delete "criticisms" and "controversies" that weren't "notable" enough to be featured in The Guardian or HuffPo.

  24. The opinions expressed in this article are 15 years out of date, too. Wikipedia is the preserve of far left activists and climate alarmists who are effective in only one respect: ensuring there is no balanced treatment of any political or contentious article. Look up William Connelly on WUWT. Over 4,000 articles edited every year by this one person to ensure only the climate alarmist view exists on Wikipedia. Tucker Carlson recently interview the other Wikipedia founder, Larry Sanger who described in detail how it has been co-opted by the radical left.

    1. They're just sucking up to Jimmy Wales because he's one of the few notable people who'll give Reason the time of day. Most of the current Reason writers are little more than bloggers...the talent who actually had subject matter expertise and tried to put out accurate, informative reporting all fled for greener pastures a few years ago. And the ones who are here are very much in line with Koch Industries' new philosophy of "The left are always the good guys when they're friends of China".

  25. Even in totally trivial subjects, Wikipedia can't be trusted. All it takes is one 'editor' who's willilng to spend all his time reverting edits to damage an article. I have made harmless edits to clean up a page, and seen them reverted immediatly. Some people sit in front of a computer literally all day and guard 'their' pages. I gave up making an honest effort long ago.

    1. Yup. I cleaned up one for typos and grammatical errors once, left the substance alone entirely...immediately reverted back.

      Wikipedia is not crowd-sourced information. It's very tightly controlled by the editors, who are leftists.

  26. I guess Mangu didn't watch John Stossel's latest video on Wikipedia bias.

  27. Wikipedia's political articles are about as unbiased and open to correction as the Southern Poverty Law Center's hater database.

  28. Wikipedia is good for telling you what the bit sequence is in a TCP/UP frame and which way around a diode goes.

    For everything else it provides the approved far-left view and actively suppresses any attempt at balance.

    This has been remarked on for many years now, and I am surprised that the article writer did not know this....

  29. I think Wikipedia is fine if you just have a casual curiosity about some subject or it’s a place to start your research if your interest is beyond casual. While many of the pages are crap (I’ve found mistakes myself), many are not. Most of the better ones have an extensive bibliography where you can read more. For example, I saw something about Napoleon the other night on TV, so I read most of Wikipedia’s article on him. I now know more than I did. Frankly, there’s no reason for me to become an expert on Napoleon, and there will be no adverse effect on my life if I read something wrong in Wikipedia (which I probably did). It's fine for an introduction to a subject, and if there are no real consequences for you to not learning more, then you can stop with Wikipedia with your curiosity largely satisfied. However, if it's important for you to understand a subject more completely, and especially if there are potentially adverse consequences to not understanding it correctly, then don’t stop with Wikipedia.

  30. I did not realize what a dunce the author has become.....

    How out of touch with reality must you be to think Wiki is good for any controversial information. Proves she is either NOT a Libertarian or is just completely out of touch and should not write about subjects where she is a dunce!

  31. I'm appalled that Reason would publish such a mendacious article.
    Wikipedia is just another leftist media outlet, with topics that are in any way political subject to left-wing censorship or modification, just like Twitter and Facebook.
    Even its co-founder, Larry Sanger, stated: "Site’s Neutrality Is ‘Dead’ Thanks to Leftist Bias"
    While not completely neutral, is more reliable, at least so far.

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