On Tuesday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced that the company had a new strategy to deal with conspiracy theories on the platform: dropping a handy Wikipedia link beneath videos on highly contested topics. And it looks like Wikipedia learned about this curious strategy at the same time as everyone else.
In a Twitter thread asking the public to support Wikipedia as much as it relies on it, Wikimedia executive director Katherine Maher first suggested that the organisation was unaware of YouTube’s plans. When asked whether this new module would only apply to English Wikipedia pages, Maher responded, “I couldn’t say; this was something they did independent of us.”
In a statement to Gizmodo, the Wikimedia Foundation confirmed that the organisation first learned of the new YouTube feature on Tuesday. “We are always happy to see people, companies, and organisations recognise Wikipedia’s value as a repository of free knowledge,” a Wikimedia Foundation spokesperson said in a statement. “In this case, neither Wikipedia nor the Wikimedia Foundation are part of a formal partnership with YouTube. We were not given advance notice of this announcement.”
It’s unclear why YouTube didn’t feel the need to ask or inform Wikimedia about its plans ahead of this week’s announcement. That’s a pretty crucial piece of information not to share. And given that YouTube has failed at efficiently moderating conspiracy theories on its platform, it might have been smart to consult with Wikimedia about how to best use its resources to fight misinformation. Of course, maybe YouTube would have learned that showing users a Wikipedia link isn’t the best way to fight hoaxes.
We have reached out to YouTube for comment and will update this story if and when they respond.