Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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EXCLUSIVE – Wikipedia founder sees enormous potential in India; brushes aside Elon Musk's criticism – WION

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Over the last year, Hindi Wikipedia has received nearly a billion pageviews”. Last week, Wikimania 2022 took place in a hybrid mode and brought together volunteers who have been contributing to Wikipedia. 


Over the last year, Hindi Wikipedia has received nearly a billion pageviews”. Last week, Wikimania 2022 took place in a hybrid mode and brought together volunteers who have been contributing to Wikipedia. 
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has said that he sees “enormous potential in India” and that the “core of the Wikimedia movement and our projects are the people that make it possible, including the thousands of contributors in India”. In an exclusive conversation with our diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, Wales pointed to the increase in the use of Indic languages on the free online encyclopedia explaining, “Of the Indic language Wikipedias, Hindi Wikipedia is the most visited language Wikipedia, in addition to English. Over the last year, Hindi Wikipedia has received nearly a billion pageviews”. Last week, Wikimania 2022 took place in a hybrid mode and brought together volunteers who have been contributing to Wikipedia. 
The Wikipedia founder also spoke about recent comments by the richest man on the planet Elon Musk that the website is losing its objectivity. Wales, brushing aside the comments said, “The core of Wikipedia is the commitment to a neutral point of view. Wikipedia is not about opinion or taking a stand.” The founder in the rare interview also spoke on fundraising campaigns, Russia-Ukraine conflict & worries over cyber warfare, or information warfare. 
WION: How does Wikipedia see India, as in what potential do you see? given its large size and increasingly insatiable need for information 
Jimmy Wales: The vision of the Wikimedia movement is a world in which all people can share in the sum of all knowledge. Reaching every person on the planet is impossible without making significant inroads in a country like India with its growing population and large troves of knowledge and culture. There is enormous potential in India to help us grow our movement of readers and contributors in order to build the sum of all human knowledge. The core of the Wikimedia movement and our projects are the people that make it possible, including the thousands of contributors in India who are working on free knowledge every day. 
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WION: Wikipedia is in how many Indian languages, and how much has been traffic flow? 
Jimmy Wales: Readers in India rely on Wikipedia as a key source of information and knowledge. On average, we see about 750 million visits to Wikipedia from readers in India each month, which is the fifth highest number of views from any country. This also makes Wikipedia the sixth most visited site in India. India also has a vibrant community of Wikimedia volunteers. The country is home to almost 65,000 contributors – representing almost a fifth of the total number of Wikimedia volunteers.  Wikipedia is currently available in 25 of the languages spoken across India, including Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Odia and Telugu and even endangered and tribal languages like Tulu and Santali. In addition to these Indic languages, India recently became the country with the second largest population of contributors to English Wikipedia after the US. 
WION: Which Indian language has been getting the largest traffic? How has been the flow for Hindi? 
Jimmy Wales: Of the Indic language Wikipedias, Hindi Wikipedia is the most visited language Wikipedia, in addition to English. Over the last year, Hindi Wikipedia has received nearly a billion page views, with most of these pageviews coming from India as well as the US. 
WION: What is Wikimania 2022 about? 
Jimmy Wales: Wikimania is the annual conference of Wikimedians, the volunteers that contribute, edit and organize to make the Wikimedia projects possible. I went to my first Wikimania in 2005, and back then it was one of the first times that we met the people behind Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects. As I look at this year’s Wikimania, I’m amazed at how far we’ve come. What was once a meeting of a few hundred people is now a meeting of thousands. This year’s theme was Wikimania: The Festival Edition!, and it is meant to be a celebration of the wide range of projects and groups in the Wikimedia movement. It’s a testament to the work and the generosity of volunteers from around the world and their commitment to free knowledge. 
WION: You also had your fundraising campaign [in India]; how has it been doing? 
Jimmy Wales: Wikipedia is one of the world’s most visited websites, yet many people don’t know that it is hosted and operated by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation. Unlike other top websites, we rely on donations to support Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects, with the average donation being about US $15. I’ve always hoped that if we build something people care about and value, then they will want to support it. It’s a model that basically asks people to chip in if they can. People make contributions year-round from countries all over the world; last year we received donations from over 7 million people. We recently concluded our fundraising campaigns in India, Latin America, and South Africa. We receive contributions of all sizes, and every gift is meaningful. 
WION: Recently, Elon Musk said that “Wikipedia is losing its objectivity”. What will you say? 
Jimmy Wales: The core of Wikipedia is the commitment to a neutral point of view. Wikipedia is not about opinion or taking a stand. It is an encyclopedia, and information is based on citations from reliable sources such as academic journals and news articles. This has been non-negotiable from day one and will continue to be the case. Our open editing model ensures that every edit is open and transparent and can be seen in the history of every article. Every edit can be debated, and no decision is taken without due deliberation among volunteer editors. 
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WION: Recently, there have been questions about if your website is prone to ideological headwinds. 
Jimmy Wales: Since Wikipedia began 20 years ago, volunteers have created a process of community-led moderation to set standards for the site. It’s not a place to insert opinions, rather, information has to be cited from a reliable source, and it has to be presented from a neutral point of view. Neutrality is at the heart of Wikipedia’s model, and it’s the very basis of how cooperation between editors works. Our approach means that Wikipedia doesn’t become a back-and-forth battle between two different opinions, but a record of what our current understanding is on a given topic as cited by media and other reliable sources. 
WION: How have various conflicts, including Russian invasion of Ukraine, Chinese aggression on Taiwan, impacted conversation on Wikipedia? 
Jimmy Wales: Articles about conflicts showcase the value of Wikipedia’s collaborative model in creating information that people can trust. For topics that may be divisive or controversial, Wikipedia’s decentralized, community-created approach to knowledge means that volunteer editors have clear guidelines on how to contribute based on our policies of neutrality, verifiability and transparency. This helps ensure that knowledge on Wikipedia about current events, world conflicts, and other controversial topics is verified and reliable so people everywhere can have a clearer picture of what’s happening. 
WION: Have there been worries over cyber warfare, or information warfare for Wikipedia in the current global context? 
Jimmy Wales: Wikipedia volunteers have policies in place that act as a strong line of defense against mis and disinformation. Wikipedia’s full transparency and “everyone can edit” design principle makes it much more resistant to disinformation campaigns and other organized attempts to influence content. Wikipedia’s resilience against bias and disinformation relies to a large extent on the existence of a functional and diverse community of editors and administrators. With that said, disinformation campaigns are also becoming increasingly more sophisticated and difficult to spot. Because of this, the Wikimedia Foundation is also investing in its capacity to respond to disinformation threats and support volunteers. An example of this was the task force the Foundation prepared ahead of the 2020 US presidential election. Foundation staff worked for hand in hand with volunteers to establish clearer lines of communication between volunteers and staff to surface and address disinformation attempts, conducted research to better understand how disinformation could spread on Wikimedia projects and built new tools for volunteers to evaluate potentially malicious edits and behaviour on the site. 
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