The mysterious Twitter founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk is himself in yet another public spat, this time with Wikipedia, a formidable nonprofit organization. Over the weekend, Musk criticized Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that runs the online encyclopedia, on his favorite social media outlet, Twitter. He charged them with discrimination and asking users to donate repeatedly.
Musk’s initial tweet questioned the Wikimedia Foundation’s need for significant funds, stating that it “certainly isn’t needed to operate Wikipedia,” emphasizing that the entire text could fit on a smartphone. However, what he omitted was that it cost a substantial $2.7 million to host Wikipedia’s websites in the previous year.
In typical Musk fashion, he took his criticism a step further by offering a billion-dollar donation in exchange for a name change to “Dickipedia,” albeit with a one-year minimum commitment for the alteration. This peculiar proposal underscores Musk’s unconventional approach to challenging established entities like Wikipedia.
Musk’s confrontational stance toward Wikipedia might stem from a rivalry perspective. He appears to have an issue with Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, especially after a recent report by NewsGuard, a company advised by Wales, suggested that verified Twitter accounts contributed significantly to the spread of misinformation during the Israel-Hamas conflict. This finding contradicted Musk’s claim that Twitter was a reliable source of news and diverse opinions.
In response to this, Musk defended Twitter’s Community Notes feature, which utilizes crowdsourcing for fact-checking, asserting its superiority over Wikipedia in terms of accuracy. However, it’s important to note that this feature has only recently begun requiring contributors to provide sources for their entries.
Musk argued that Wikipedia’s hierarchical structure makes it susceptible to the biases of higher-ranking editors, irrespective of their qualifications. The Wikimedia Foundation, responsible for Wikipedia, has yet to publicly respond to Musk’s comments. In 2022, the foundation reported revenue of $154 million, with $146 million in expenses. A significant portion of these expenses goes toward engineering improvements, product development, and supporting Wikipedia communities.
This feud with Wikipedia comes after Musk’s legal threats and confrontations with other nonprofits, including the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Anti-Defamation League. The ongoing turbulence in Musk’s interactions with these organizations coincides with a reported 15% year-over-year decline in Twitter’s traffic since his involvement with the social media platform.
Elon Musk’s outspoken and confrontational approach to various issues continues to keep him in the public eye, sparking debates and discussions on the influence and responsibilities of tech billionaires and social media platforms.