$2 Million Buys eBay Founder a Wikipedia Seat

Insiders are gaining more power over the volunteer-written encyclopedia

By Jackson West
|  Tuesday, Aug 25, 2009  |  Updated 6:15 PM EDT
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$2 Million Buys eBay Founder a Wikipedia Seat

Joi Ito

Billionaire eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar's investment fund granted the Wikimedia foundation $2 million, and got a seat on the board out of it.

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The annual Wikipedia party, "Wikimania," in being held in Buenos Aires, Argentina and generating plenty of announcements from the San Francisco-based Wikimedia Foundation.

The Omidyar Network, a fund established by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar, has pledged $2 million over two years to support the site, and in return landed fund partner Matt Halprin a seat on a shaken-up board of trustees.

But in a decision that may prove as controversial as the erroneous edits it intends to prevent, the site's policies regarding updates to entries related to living persons are getting a lot stricter.

Wikipedia, which is maintained by volunteers and allows anyone to make, or delete, an edit to an entry, has seen public people caught up in plenty of online and offline beefs over the years.

From court cases over defamation to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales keeping the lid on information about a kidnapped journalist, user edits and management meddling have been a constant source of controversy.

"We are no longer at the point that it is acceptable to throw things at the wall and see what sticks," Wikimedia Board Chairman Michael Snow told the New York Times.

The new feature is dubbed "flagged revisions," and creates a new level of authority by granting more editorial privilege to particular users. And the feature could easily be implemented beyond just profiles of people.

Photo by Joi Ito.

Jackson West thought Wikipedia was a lot more fun when it didn't put on airs of legitimacy.

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