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When YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki unveiled the company’s latest initiative to combat misinformation on the platform at SXSW, it didn’t clue in one of the third parties that would help in the myth-busting — Wikipedia.
Wojcicki said YouTube would display “information clues” from independent sources, including Wikipedia, to provide facts around widely accepted events, like the moon landing, and debunk conspiracy theories. Some news outlets characterized the announcement as a partnership of sorts — which was news to Wikipedia.
“We are always happy to see people, companies and organizations recognize Wikipedia’s value as a repository of free knowledge,” the Wikimedia Foundation said in a statement today. “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.”
YouTube says it merely plans to retrieve and display relevant Wikipedia information, just as parent Google does know when a user searches for a topic. There’s no actual partnership here.
That’s different from Facebook’s approach in December 2016, when it enlisted the help of five fact-checking organizations, including FactCheck.org, Politifact and Snopes, to scrutinize stories that users report as potentially fake. If a post fails the fact check, it’s flagged as “disputed.”
Politifact issued a one-year update on the initiative, noting it debunked about five articles a day, but added that this is a Sisyphean task: “The reality is, there is too much content for us to check, and we imagine there is plenty more material in need of fact-checking that we aren’t seeing.”
Wikimedia used YouTube’s announcement as an opportunity to talk about its rigorous fact-checking process — which is performed by “living, breathing humans who volunteer their time every day to add, curate and maintain the world’s largest encyclopedia.”
The nonprofit organization also tucked in an appeal for a donation, noting, “We encourage companies who use Wikimedia’s content to give back in the spirit of sustainability.”
Here’s the full Wikimedia letter, circulated on Twitter: