For the average internet user, Wikipedia operates in the background, its 44 million entries serving as a priceless resource, rarely thought of until you need to know the capital of Azerbaijan. This week, however, Wikipedia's volunteer editors and the nonprofit that makes its work possible, the Wikimedia Foundation, suddenly found themselves in the news, tasked once again with providing a ground-level truth for a platform unwilling to provide one of its own.
On stage at the South by Southwest conference on Tuesday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced that her company would begin adding "information cues" to conspiracy theory videos, text-based links intended to provide users with better information about what they are watching. One of the sites YouTube plans to use is Wikipedia. "We’re just going to be releasing this for the first time in a couple weeks, and our goal is to start with the list of internet conspiracies listed where there is a lot of active discussion on YouTube," Wojcicki said on stage.
The move came as a surprise—even to the Wikimedia Foundation. "In this case, neither Wikipedia nor the Wikimedia Foundation are part of a formal partnership with YouTube. We were not given advance notice of this announcement," the organization said in a statement.
YouTube, a multibillion-dollar corporation flush with advertising cash, had chosen to offload its misinformation problem in part to a volunteer, nonprofit encyclopedia without informing it first. YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the move prompted protestations from the media and some of Wikipedia's editors.
"As a longtime Wikipedia editor, I wondered whether YouTube thought deeply about how relying on Wikipedia to combat disinformation on YouTube videos is going to impact Wikipedia and the community of editors,” says Amanda