No, Congresswoman: WikiLeaks has nothing to do with Wikipedia

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Texas. Photo public domain, courtesy of U.S. Congress.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Texas. Photo public domain, courtesy of U.S. Congress.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston is the latest prominent figure to confuse Wikipedia with WikiLeaks. This confusion goes back many years; it often flares up when WikiLeaks releases capture the public’s attention. In 2010, for instance, when WikiLeaks released a string of controversial documents and video, journalists including Charlie Rose turned to Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales for commentary — only to learn, sometimes on live camera, that Wales and Wikimedia have nothing to do with WikiLeaks.

But the mistake is an important and troubling one, especially when made by a public official. Wikipedia and WikiLeaks do not merely lack institutional ties; they also reflect profoundly divergent philosophies about the public’s role in information stewardship.

Wikipedia invites everybody in the world to participate in nearly every decision.

WikiLeaks, while it might solicit key information from anybody who has it, is completely opaque and centrally driven in its decisions; founder Julian Assange may be the sole decision-maker (or perhaps there is a small inner circle he consults).

Any member of Congress should care about the public’s role in information management and dissemination. And anybody who cares about that topic should know, as a basic point of literacy in 2016, that Wikipedia and WikiLeaks are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Read more on the differences here: WikiLeaks is not part of Wikipedia

 

About Pete Forsyth

Pete Forsyth is the principal of Wiki Strategies, and a Wikipedia expert. Full bio here: wikistrategies.net/pete-forsyth
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