The Liars are in Charge, so Do Something

The Liars are in Charge, so Do Something, by Alan Kohler.

I finally started donating regularly to Wikipedia last week, not just because I use it most days but because I realised that we need its model to work. Facebook should be like Wikipedia; it won’t be, but it should. And we definitely need Wikipedia to continue.

In simple terms, the only way a free global internet information service with millions of pages and billions of users can be remotely accurate, and not a blight on humanity, is for it to be a not-for-profit that lots of people are prepared to edit for nothing, as a public good.

According to Wikipedia itself, 135,723 users have edited one or more of its pages in the past 30 days. These are people all over the world who are dedicated to ensuring that what appears there is accurate. They don’t always succeed, but at least they’re trying and peer reviews suggest it’s as accurate as Britannica. …

Wikipedia came first, in January 2001, driven by Jimmy Wales’ vision of creating a free encyclopaedia for everyone, without him getting rich. It confirmed Tim Berners-Lee’s earlier vision of an open internet for all and seemed to herald a golden age of equality of access and benevolence. …

Facebook is really different:

For-profit Facebook can never employ enough fact-checkers to ensure that what is published is accurate and/or civil and still make a profit — there is simply too much stuff to check. …

If someone told us 30 or 40 years ago that there would be a global publisher with 2.45 billion readers that would publish virtually anything without checking it, and that even when it was told that something false, it would usually remain published, and that it would make vast profits by selling to advertisers the ability to target us accurately by invading our privacy, we would have thought it was just horrifying dystopian science fiction. …

Facebook is nothing like Wikipedia, and it took almost 10 years of gradually boiling the frog for this to be realised.

Now everyone understands that Facebook is just another corporation, if not more rapacious than most, and that its business model is arguably the opposite of benevolence: harvesting users’ privacy and selling it to advertisers who are allowed to lie to them.

Oh dear, Alan seems to be snuggling up to censorship:

Can you imagine an online encyclopaedia succeeding if the person in charge defended false entries “because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying”, which is how Mark Zuckerberg defended the decision not to fact-check political ads.

It’s so transparent it makes you wonder whether Zuckerberg’s refusal to fact-check political ads, or any ads for that matter, is not just financial but a deliberate corporate strategy.

Alan Kohler is in the habit of assuming that what the bureaucracy, academia, media, the right people, and the people he works with at the ABC say is true. It’s often not, and it is especially this information that is most critical. To refuse to publish information they regard as false is a grave mistake, often covering up corruption and ineptitude.

Wikipedia tells lies. For example, climate activists got control early, and simply refuse to allow certain inconvenient facts to be published. When editors include them, Wikipedia editors higher up immediately delete them. The activists typically use the excuse that the data is under challenge or in dispute. Well yes … but almost everything in climate, including every data set, is in dispute or under challenge — especially ones that undermine the carbon dioxide theory of global warming. So the activists only publish the information that suits them. One activist, William Connolly, even got sacked by Wikipedia for going too far, after a few thousand egregious edits. Wikipedia is clearly campaigning, lying by omission. If their case for the carbon dioxide theory of global warming is so good, and the science settled, why the bodyguard of lies and deletions?