YouTube didn’t tell Wikipedia about its plans for Wikipedia

Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube.
CNBC
Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube.

At SXSW yesterday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced that the platform would start adding information from Wikipedia to conspiracy-related videos within the next few weeks. "We will show a companion unit of information from Wikipedia showing that here is information about the event," she said. The company is "using a list of well-known internet conspiracies from Wikipedia" to pull from. However, YouTube appears to have left one party in the dark: "We were not given advance notice of this announcement," said the Wikimedia Foundation in a statement on Twitter.

According to Wikimedia, this partnership isn't a formal one with either Wikimedia or Wikipedia. "We are always happy to see people, companies, and organizations recognize Wikipedia's value as a repository of free knowledge," the company said. YouTube doesn't need to officially partner with Wikimedia to use information from Wikipedia, but it's still a bemusing tactic to make such an announcement without any official word passed between the two.

Wikimedia added that its content is possible because of the millions of people who make donations, as well as those who edit and contribute to the site. In a series of follow-up tweets, Wikimedia notes that it has thousands of editors monitoring content and that those tracking conspiracy theories specifically have sometimes spent years doing so. "Wikipedia's content is also freely licensed for reuse by anyone, and that's part of our mission: that every single person can share in free knowledge," Wikimedia says. "We want people all over the world to use, share, add to, and remix Wikipedia ... At the same time, we encourage companies who use Wikimedia's content to give back in the spirit of sustainability."

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That Wikimedia expects something from YouTube is clear. The account retweeted community member Phoebe Ayers, who said YouTube should be running tests with Wikimedia's help to begin with. "Does linking result in increased traffic?" Ayers tweeted. "Increased vandalism? It's not polite to treat Wikipedia like an endlessly renewable resource with infinite free labor; what's the impact?"