The founder of online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has announced plans for a crowd-funded news website offering stories by journalists and volunteers working together, an initiative he hopes will counter the spread of fake news.
The new platform, called Wikitribune, will be free to access and carry no advertising, instead relying 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, which does not yet carry any news stories. The page indicates the platform will go live in 29 days.
The initial goal is to raise sufficient funds to hire 10 professional journalists. The website is set up to encourage supporters to give $10 a month, but the amount and frequency of gifts can easily be modified.
The online proliferation of fake news, some of it generated for profit and some for political ends, became a major topic of angst and debate in many developed countries during last year’s U.S. presidential election.
“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.
The Wikitribune website said articles would be authored, fact-checked and verified by journalists and volunteers working together, while users would be able to flag up issues and submit fixes for review.
Beckett said journalists could benefit from tapping into expertise or information held by readers, but said this was already being done by many mainstream media. He also said it was not a miracle remedy against inaccuracy.
“There’s nothing magical about being a citizen. As a citizen you have your own bias and prejudice and experience as well,” he said.