Saturday 20 January 2018

Wikipedia founder is 'looking for an Irish passport'

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia during a vist to The Philosophical Society at Trinity College Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia during a vist to The Philosophical Society at Trinity College Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, says he is looking for an Irish passport.

"I've been in the UK long enough now to qualify for a British passport, just at the time that it's become completely useless," he told Independent.ie. "I'd love to see if I can somehow get an Irish passport."

The American internet veteran, whose middle name is Donal, was speaking in Dublin where he is to address a .ie Domain Registry (IEDR) event as part of Ireland's Internet Day.

Wikipedia, which Mr Wales founded in 2001, is the fifth most visited website in the world.

Mr Wales is also set to launch a new media organisation called WikiTribune soon.

"I think that there has been a rise in fake news," he said. "I've had this idea for a news site for years, but what really clinched it was listening to [Donald Trump associate] Kelly Ann Conway refer to 'alternative facts'. I knew that I had to do something."

He said that Facebook has "inadvertently" fuelled the rise of fake news around the world.

"I think it's a difficult problem for them," he said. "If circumstances were different and they said they were going to try and decide what was real and what was false on the internet, we'd be screaming at them for it. The problem is that, unlike Twitter, it's friends who see things that are shared on Facebook. And it's harder to tell what's fake because most people aren't experts in the names of news organisations."

WikiTribune has published two articles so far, with more to come before the end of the year, he said. The 'crowd-funded' news organisation is hiring professional journalists but is allowing articles to be initiated, edited and sourced by members of the public.

Mr Wales said that he would try to keep the news site "objective", despite having a strong personal dislike of political figures such as Donald Trump.

"Donald Trump is a troll," he said. "I think he might eventually be impeached and I'll hold a party the night that this happens. But we still want to be fair and source articles properly. I recently saw an article in the Washington Post that was simply a rant against Trump. As much as I enjoyed the rant, I thought it wasn't fair to him because it took his words out of context. It's a good question as to how we will maintain objectivity but we're hoping that the community will help with that."

Despite internet entrepreneurs with less prominent services becoming billionaires over the last decade, Mr Wales said that he did not regret his decision not to make money out of Wikipedia, which remains a not-for-profit service.

"I don't, not one bit," he said. "In 500 years' time, people will look back on Wikipedia and say that it was a great service to the world."

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