fakenews

Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia has come up with a potential fix to fake news – it’s a new wiki, can it work?

“The news is broken,” says a demo version of a new service to be launched by Jimmy Wales, “and we can fix it.”

The idea is to combine crowd sourced editorial with an in-house team of paid writers/researchers. But each fact stated has to be sourced – as is the case with Wikipedia – and the public can edit articles, although everything is checked by in-house writers for accuracy before it is published.

Jimmy Wales himself believes that the advertising model that has come to fund online editorial encourages ‘chase clicks.’ He also reckons people want something that is fact checked. By the way, before we go any further, click here, to see how much these celebrities have aged.

He told the BBC: "I think we're in a world right now where people are very concerned about making sure we have high quality fact-based information, so I think there will be demand for this.”

There is some irony in the fact that Mr Wales spoke to the BBC about this.

The BBC’s web site used to be jam packed with fact based news – although this meant it sometimes came across as making the site seem bland.

But more commercial publishers, especially those who ram emotive stories down our throats and which only seem to have a passing interest in telling the truth, accused the BBC of abusing its privileged position.

So now the volume of news published on the BBC website is a fraction of the quantity it is used to be: and we are now told that there is not enough fact checked, objective news, out there.

Actually, there is, there is lots of it, it is just that the public choose, partly via the filter bubble that is their social media network, and partly via certain newspapers that seem to find there is more money in fake news, choose to read publications that are not so bothered about the truth.

Isn’t this part of the reason why people have been marching for science? It is not just that certain politicians seem to have put objective scientific reasoning on the backburner in favour of appealing to the lowest common denominator, but much of the media has this approach too.

It is perhaps the riddle of the age. We nearly all carry around with us access to the greatest library that has ever existed – the internet – when, providing we have decent internet access, we can fact check anything within minutes. Yet fake news flourishes.

Jimmy Wales’s idea is good, and for that matter, Tim Cook, the boss of Apple, is right when he says fakes news is killing people’s minds.

But this is probably not quite as new a phenomenon as some think.

All the same, a crowd soured web site, that offers a way to fact check everything politicians or popular newspapers state, would surely do a lot of good.

Mr Wales said that he is hoping to have a team of 10 to 20 paid journalists/researchers, he says anything less would feel like a blog.

But that costs money, and Mr Wales wants the service to be free and not funded by advertising. Maybe a company whose boss thinks fake news is killing people’s mind would be a good backer.

So, Mr Wales is reliant on voluntary contributions – good idea – but an increase in the TV licence, turning it into a TV plus non-fake news licence, might be better still.

Or maybe, schools need to teach people to question more, rather than teach people to just do as they are told.