How Elon Musk Got Angry at Wikipedia

“Happy Birthday Wikipedia! So you’re glad you exist.” This tweet from Elon Musk celebrating 20 years of the online encyclopedia is like an old dusty memory from the attic. The billionaire published it almost two years ago, but now, the time for praise is over.

In July 2022, he took Jimmy Wales to taskone of the site’s two founders, to denounce that fact “Wikipedia is losing its objectivity”. What could have happened between these two tweets for the rich South African to start pointing a finger at a platform where he wished a happy birthday moments ago?

The question was probably important to Larry Sanger. The other co-founder of the most consulted encyclopedia on the planet did not hesitate to approach in the comment to serve its own interest. “Elon, I am co-founder of Wikipedia (long gone). A new project, a truly decentralized network bringing together all encyclopedias (an “encyclosphere”), has progressed well and should now be on your radar. Please encourage people to donate.”

After launching Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger quickly went their separate ways. Since then, the latter has never missed an opportunity to voice his opposition to Wikipedia… which he nevertheless helped launch. Elon Musk’s tweet is therefore a good opportunity to make some publicity for his new project. Nice try, but a billionaire won’t promote it.

A divorce in several acts

Elon Musk’s tweet is not an isolated case. In recent months, the billionaire businessman has increasingly expressed his doubts about the reliability of the encyclopedia. After the suspension on Twitter of various journalists who followed his activities, the boss of the social network was touched by the fact that this news resulted in the creation of an article on Wikipedia, which has now been deleted.

Various fans of the entrepreneur are convinced that the platform is politically biased.

“The two-day suspension of, maybe, seven accounts for doxxing resulted in an actual Wikipedia page!?”, did he get carried away following the creation of this page. “Wikipedia is controlled by mainstream journalists. I can’t trust this site anymore. In the comments, we again see Larry Sanger providing after sales service for his encyclopedia. He insisted, still and alwaysin its decentralized aspect, which he considers the guarantee of a better project.

Spin around. After the “Twitter Files”, a series of publications of internal documents on the blue bird, the Wikipedia community has, at times, disappointed the billionaire, who is not really used to fighting. After debates on the relevance of a page dedicated to the documents published by the boss of the social network, Wikipedians answered no. The Twitter Files are worth mentioning, yes, but not having a full article. A fate similar to the article devoted to the exclusion of journalists from Twitter… which was nevertheless denounced by Elon Musk.

“Wikipedia is completely controlled by the mainstream media”

As always, Elon Musk can count on the support of his fans. More or less seriously, some regularly asked him to buy the encyclopedia. Problem: it’s not for sale, which doesn’t prevent a financial relationship between the two protagonists. According to a Forbes investigation, in 2020 the businessman donated $1 million to the Wikimedia Foundation. But that was new, at a time not so long ago when Elon Musk was still praising the free knowledge project.

Nine months ago, one of his fans on Reddit denounced Wikipedia’s treatment of the entrepreneur. “Is there anything we can do?”, he wondered, eager to find a way to change the content of an article he considered too difficult for the billionaire. Various Musk fans are more convinced than ever that the platform is politically biased.

This rejection is reminiscent of another: that of Donald Trump who, for his part, has repeatedly called the media “enemies of the people”.

“Wiki has been run by leftists lately”dropped one of them. “It’s not surprising at all.” The desire to control what is said there about the billionaire is not small. Elon Musk is the sixth most consulted personality in the history of Wikipedia, Donald Trump monopolizes – for now – the first place.

The vision of a biased encyclopedia is shared by Elon Musk. On December 17, he referred to Jimmy Wales again to alert him, ignoring or pretending to ignore that this was a participatory project and that even one of the founders could not choose its editorial line. “Wikipedia is completely controlled by the mainstream media”, he denounced on his favorite social network.

It is not surprising to find that the “mainstream media” is one of the favorite targets of Elon Musk and his supporters. Enriching the content in the encyclopedia means finding reliable sources recognized by the Wikipedian community, so it is very common to go through this type of media. This denial is reminiscent of another: that of Donald Trump who, for his part, has repeatedly qualified the media “enemy of the people”.

What is the name of this reversal?

Elon Musk’s change of perspective on the platform he once valued didn’t come out of nowhere. This may be due to the fact that Wikipedias have radically changed the way they create content, or to their sudden evolution in “a leftist bias”, at least according to the billionaire. But this rejection of Wikipedia may also be a result of the political obscurity maintained by the Tesla boss.

He continues to point to an encyclopedia that he says was written by a “loser party”, who would have “a lot of free time”.

In recent years, Elon Musk has made a lot of strange calls to the foot: advice in taking “the red pill”a popular concept on the far right and among Internet users who love conspiracy theories, or a nod to the QAnon movement when it recommends of “follow the white rabbit”.

The recent boss of Twitter surfs the same trend with Wikipedia, not really with the smell of sanctity with conspiratorial spheres and the radical right – as shown again by the French presidential sequence where a cell of militants from Éric Zemmour the content related to their candidate.

As usual, Elon Musk is trolling. On his social network, he keeps pointing to an encyclopedia that he says was written by a “losing party”who will have “lots of free time”. “I love Wikipedia, it gets better with time», Elon Musk tweeted again in 2017. A clever troll might respond with a popular meme “Feel old yet?”

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