Wales’ Tales: Wikipedia Founder Denies Diminished Role

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’ Sunday email to TechCrunch did not read, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” but the famous Mark Twain quote seems to be appropriate.

Wales denied a Fox News report that he had relinquished his top-level control at Wikipedia, telling TechCrunch the report was not true and adding that Fox News had never tried to contact him.

Fox News reported that Wales was retaining his title as president of the Wikimedia Foundation, but he was no longer able to delete files, remove administrators, assign projects, or edit any content, saying that he was reduced to having the same capabilities of a low-level administrator. One source told Fox News, “He had the highest level of control, he was our leader,” and, when asked who was currently in charge, the source added, “No one. It’s chaos.”

The controversy at Wikipedia arose due to Wales’ reported deletion of images that some considered child pornography, and the subsequent reposting of those images.

According to the Fox News report, Wales defended his actions on the Wikipedia listserve group, writing:

Much of the cleanup is done, although there was so much hardcore pornography on commons that there’s still some left in nooks and crannies.

We were about to be smeared in all media as hosting hard-core pornography and doing nothing about it. Now, the correct story line is that we are cleaning up. I’m proud to have made sure that story line broke the way it did, and I’m sorry I had to step on some toes to make it happen.

Now, the key is: Let’s continue to move forward with a responsible policy discussion.

A Wikipedia administrator fired back, as reported by Fox News:

If this is an emergency situation requiring a justified, immediate, unilateral, king-like massive action, I regret Mr. Wales didn’t take the time to explain the emergency to us.

By rush-imposing his views and decisions on people who are not out of the debate yet, he is browbeating their inner self, ignoring their beliefs and opinions, discarding the value of the Other.

This lack of respect and of equality of vote should be extremely well argumented and the reasons transparently communicated. Otherwise, trust, faith and adhesion to the (Wikimedia Foundation) values dissolve. I don’t think we should let this happen. Mr. Wales, I hope you enter reason and dialogue realms again. David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.