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Maryana Iskander, Wikipedia’s Next Leader, on Preventing Misinformation – The New York Times

Summary

Two decades ago, Wikipedia arrived on the scene as a quirky online project that aimed to crowdsource and document all of human knowledge and history in real time. Skeptics worried that much of the site would include unreliable information, and frequently pointed out mistakes.

But now, the online encyclopedia is often cited as a place that, on balance, helps combat false and misleading information spreading elsewhere.

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Two decades ago, Wikipedia arrived on the scene as a quirky online project that aimed to crowdsource and document all of human knowledge and history in real time. Skeptics worried that much of the site would include unreliable information, and frequently pointed out mistakes.

But now, the online encyclopedia is often cited as a place that, on balance, helps combat false and misleading information spreading elsewhere.

Last week, the Wikimedia Foundation, the group that oversees Wikipedia, announced that Maryana Iskander, a social entrepreneur in South Africa who has worked for years in nonprofits tackling youth unemployment and women’s rights, will become its chief executive in January.

We spoke with her about her vision for the group and how the organization works to prevent false and misleading information on its sites and around the web.

Give us a sense of your direction and vision for Wikimedia, especially in such a fraught information landscape and in this polarized world.

There are a few core principles of Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia, that I think are important starting points. It’s an online encyclopedia. It’s not trying to be anything else. It’s certainly not trying to be a traditional social media platform in any way. It has a structure that is led by volunteer editors. And as you may know, the foundation has no editorial control. This is very much a user-led community, which we support and enable.

The lessons to learn from, not just with what we’re doing but how we continue to iterate and improve, start with this idea of radical transparency. Everything on Wikipedia is cited. It’s debated on our talk pages. So even when people may have different points of view, those debates are public and transparent, and in some cases really allow for the right kind of back and forth. I think that’s the need in such a polarized society — you have to make space for the back and forth. But how do you do that in a way that’s transparent and ultimately leads to a better product and better information?

And the last thing that I’ll say is, you know, this is a community of extremely humble and honest people. As we look to the future, how do we build on those attributes in terms of what this platform can continue to offer society and provide free access to knowledge? How do we make sure that we are reaching the full diversity of humanity in terms of who is invited to participate, who is written about? How are we really making sure that our collective efforts reflect more of the global south, reflect more women and reflect the diversity of human knowledge, …….

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/23/technology/wikipedia-misinformation.html