Can the world's most widely accessed collection of information be trusted? And if not, is it possible to change it for the better?
In 2001, Jimmy Wales created the first entry on Wikipedia: "Hello world". 20 years later, Wikipedia contains more than 50 million articles with English Wikipedia alone getting more than 300 million clicks per day, and has the professed goal of being free, democratic, and neutral. But is it reliable as a source of factual record? As the largest encyclopedia of all time, The Wikipedia Promise
looks at the inner life of the website and deals with issues of perspective, representation, and Western-centrism.
The film thoroughly traces the origins of the platform as well as its rapid ascent among internet users, as well as the history of knowledge collections. Wikipedia began with a promise: knowledge production, which was in the hands of elites for millenia, is to be radically democratized. The film also addresses the problems associated with Wikipedia's place as an academic resource, as younger generations have grown up viewing the website as credible source of citable information. Anyone can contribute, regardless of education level or background. Given Wikipedia's popularity, it is particularly susceptible to willful disinformation and distortion. And with the anonymity of contributors comes an associated dissolving of accountability, as Wikipedia's evolution of self-regulation is also detailed.
With the website as a mirror of society, even in which old perspectives are faltering, women and people from the global South still find themselves underrepresented. More and more authors no longer want to accept this status quo. The film platforms "wikipedians", people behind the facade of the website, and authors from across the world in Egypt, Germany, Ghana, South Africa, Tunisia, and the US have their say about various pros and cons of Wikipedia. Also featured is Wikipedia "ex-founder" Larry Sanger, who effectively disowns the modern iteration of his co-creation.
Twenty years after its founding, has The Wikipedia Promise been kept? Is today's Wikipedia conservative or radical? Is it an online re-launch of Eurocentric knowledge production or can it become a truly global project?
- Jimmy Wales, Co-Founder of Wikipedia
- Larry Sanger, Co-Founder of Wikipedia