WT. Social: will Wikipedia’s social network save democracy
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. has just launched a new social network alternative to Facebook and Twitter: WT. Social. Its operation is based on the principles that have made the online encyclopedia so successful: user moderation. A means of providing access to free, secure and verified information. The goal of WT. Social. Preserve democracy.
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Jimmy Wales announces the color: “My ambitions for this project are huge, and you are there from the start. If we get to 20 million or 200 million users, we can begin to materially improve the flow of information around the world, and we can seriously harm the social media: giants who have made so much to destroy their democracy.
1WT. Social: a participatory social network
The message sent to the first subscribers of WT. Social is that this social network is free and collaborative. More than 200,000 people joined in a few days. The platform grew to 340,000 users in early December 2019. At this rate, WT. Social could quickly become a major alternative to Facebook and Twitter. Registration is free.
However, for now, there is a waiting list, unless you financially support the initiative with a donation of 12 euros per month. In an interview with Les Echo’s, Jimmy Wales hopes between 50 million and 500 million users, of whom “one in 200 will be willing to pay to finance the project”, he estimates.
2Facebook and Twitter users follow
Will Facebook and Twitter users follow WT. Social? Nothing is less sure. Especially since the interface is rustic to say the least. But this is only the beginning. The network is also appealing to future administrators and developers to cope with dizzying growth.
Either way the transfer from Facebook or Twitter will be easy, Jimmy Wales’s promises: “I hope you help me! WT. Social has a special invitation mechanism, where you can migrate your existing social circles to our platform with a single link. If only one of your friends accepts an invitation, you will have instant access to the site.
3Moderation by users
To give Internet users the power to be informed, WT. Social is therefore inspired by the Wikipedia model. The users of the service publish the contents and moderate them themselves.
As with the online encyclopedia, the system operates through donations and free contributions from its members. Like many web pioneers, Tim Berners-Lee in particular, Jimmy Wales deplores the mercantile and potentially liberticidal drifts to which commercial social networks expose. The founder of the network recently told the Financial Times: “The business model of social media companies of outright advertising is problematic. The big winner, it turns out, is low-quality content.
4Facebook, Twitter: information filtered by algorithms
Facebook and Twitter use algorithms to select which posts appear in your news feed, prioritizing the most “popular” or best sponsored posts. WT. Social will display the most recent posts first. But above all, collaborative moderation will validate the authenticity of published content. All without advertising.
the fake news and deep fakes, disinformation and the most wacky conspiratorial rumors, circulate on social networks. As far as competing with rational and scientific thought, the “terreplatistes” even hold a congress in Brazil.
equally serious, the actions of propaganda and political destabilization are increasing, undermining the foundations of democracy. We remember the Facebook-Cambridge Analytical scandal, the company had collected the personal data of millions of Facebook profiles, without their consent, and had used it for political advertising purposes for Donald Trump.
5Google and Facebook, threats to human rights
Jimmy Wales is not the only one to sound the alarm bells on the dangers posed by these networks on democracy, in a report published in November 2019, Amnesty International denounces the economic model “based on surveillance” of Google and Facebook, calling it a “systemic threat to human rights”, as Le Point relates. In this report, the NGO calls on governments to “act urgently
To accelerate the viral movement that is fueling the web with this new network, the founder of Wikipedia has just declared that the code for WT. Social is now open source. Statement nevertheless made on Twitter. A social network focused on news sharing, discussion and privacy is what Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales wanted to create by launching WT: Social earlier this month.
6The Platforms to help Share Links and articles
the platform allows people to share links to and discuss articles on a Facebook-like news feed. It has already attracted over 160,000 members, and Jimmy Wales hopes to attract tens – if not hundreds – of millions more.
the co-founder of the free encyclopedia explained in an interview with the Financial Times that the goal of WT: Social is to prioritize quality content and counter click baits. That’s why the most recent posts, not the ones with the most engagement, appear first.
In 2019, a good number of news items fueled this debate, sometimes associating it with concrete initiatives, which could be seen as yet another desperate gamble to get out of a system that we no longer control. Among these is the very recent launch of the WT: Social platform, whose father is none other than Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. Wt.: social dreams of an ethical alternative to Facebook. Faithful to its principles, this social network is free of advertising, participatory and bases its economic model on donations. Will Wales establish himself as a digital ethical superhero? Like any social network, its viability will critically depend on the critical threshold of users. However, past initiatives have not met with the expected success. One example among others, Vero, “the social network that wanted to shake up the current ecosystem” had taken up the challenge two years ago and a few months later, was almost forgotten, far from the dream revolution. WT: Will Social meet the same fate? With 500,000 registrations in one month, we can consider a rather promising start.
These outbursts towards platforms that save democracy still arouse keen interest among journalists, and are therefore highlighted to the general public. Overall, the ethical questions that revolve around social networks and GAFA are increasingly the subject of inquiries within editorial staff I tested a week without GAFA
8Face of mistrust of the media
But in the face of mistrust of the media, does this concern for ethics meet the real expectations of the population? Or is it only the reflection of questions circulating within the same sphere, of a microcosm? The rejection of “if it’s free you are the product”, of the manipulation of opinion, is it so strong in the eyes of everyone that he is ready to abandon the connection with some of his friends by suddenly leaving Facebook to turn to a new platform with the impression of being invited to a party where he does not know anyone? Opinion polls continue to show an upward trend: consumers are increasingly orienting societal and environmental issues in their purchasing criteria.
at the same time, conversations on the web about “ethics” increased by 39% in 2019 compared to the previous year. Transitions are slow, and if WT: Social rises to the challenge, kicking off a new kind of platform this year, brands will have new challenges to overcome for the next decade.