Fake news is a known problem on the Internet, and it seems as if it’s becoming more problematic month by month. We’ve already reported on the difficulty of debunking it when people want to believe it because it fits their biases. Crowdsourced initiatives such as Reddit can debunk fake stories, sometimes remarkably quickly, but Reddit has also been known to get things wrong itself (as when it misidentified a Boston Marathon bombing suspect). Now Nieman Journalism Lab reports that Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales is launching an initiative called Wikitribune that will combine crowdsourced debunking with professional journalistic oversight.
Wikitribune is not affiliated with Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation, which has its own crowdsourced news site, Wikinews. However, as Nieman points out, Wikinews hasn’t met its goal of becoming an AP-like high-quality free news feed, possibly because an all-volunteer staff doesn’t have paid professional journalists driving it.
At the moment, all Wikitribune has on its site is a mission and fundraising statement, so it’s too early yet to see if any better results come from it. But I certainly wish it the best of luck. We need more sites dedicated to debunking fake stories, hopefully without the political baggage Snopes has accumulated among those who regard it as “liberal propaganda.”