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Wikipedia founder launches site to counter fake news

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By James Edgar  with REUTERS
Wikipedia founder launches site to counter fake news

The founder of Wikipedia has launched a website aimed at countering the spread of fake news.

Jimmy Wales said Wikitribune would “fix” the problem after declaring: “the news is broken.”

Like Wikipedia, the platform is free, and will bring together professional journalists and a community of volunteers and supporters to produce news articles.

It will carry no advertising, but will rely on its readers to fund it, while the accuracy of news reports will be easily verifiable as source material will be published, Wales said.

“The news is broken, but we’ve figured out how to fix it,” he said in a promotional video posted on the website’s homepage.

The proliferation of fake news online, some of it generated for profit and some for political ends, became a major topic talking point during last year’s presidential election in America.

Websites such as Google and Facebook faced criticism recently after being accused of not doing enough to fight the spread of fake news stories across their platforms.

Both have Facebook since announced new tools to tackle the problem.

Wales argued in his video that because people expect to get news for free on the internet, news sites were reliant on advertising money, which created strong incentives to generate so-called “clickbait”, catchy headlines to attract viewers.

“This is a problem because ads are cheap, competition for clicks is fierce and low-quality news sources are everywhere,” said Wales.

He also argued that social media networks, where an ever-increasing number of people get their news, were designed to show users what they wanted to see, confirm their biases and keep them clicking at all costs.

Wales said Wikitribune would combine professional, standards-based journalism with what he called “the radical idea from the world of wiki that a community of volunteers can and will reliably protect the integrity of information”.

He said articles would be authored, fact-checked and verified by journalists and volunteers working together, while anyone would be able to flag up issues and submit fixes for review.

“As the facts are updated, the news becomes a living, evolving artefact, which is what the Internet was made for,” he said.

The Wikitribune homepage said the platform would go live in 29 days. It also indicated that the intention was to hire 10 journalists, but none had been hired so far.