Elon Musk has recently found a new topic to direct his creative criticism at: Wikipedia. However, the founder of the free online encyclopedia isn’t taking the insults lying down—he’s hitting back at Musk’s controversial entry into the world of social media.
This week Jimmy Wales, who founded Wikipedia in January 2001, slammed the transformation X—formerly Twitter—has undergone since being taken over by Musk.
Among the changes overseen by Musk have been an increased focus on free speech—even at the risk of losing advertisers—as well as updates to user verification, plus the introduction of subscription models and longer form videos.
For Wales, some of these decisions have created a “huge problem.”
“A lot of people are fleeing Twitter, a lot of thoughtful and serious people are fleeing Twitter,” Wales told CNBC during the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon.
He continued: “I think it’s a real problem. Twitter was, and now I guess X sort of is… the default public square for the world and if it’s being overrun by trolls and lunatics. It’s not good for any of us.”
X has had to work hard to convince users and advertisers alike it is serious about content moderation, after advertising revenue on the platform sunk by around half.
In August, just weeks into her tenure as X’s new CEO, Linda Yaccarino claimed X had rolled out a raft of brand safety tools “that have never existed before at this company,” as well as confirming a new “de-amplification” policy.
However just a week later Media Matters, a not-for-profit research and insight site, published a report appearing to show posts from major global brands being unknowingly promoted on a pro-Nazi profile.
More recently X was the subject of a damning report from information analysis company NewsGuard, which found some of the biggest peddlers of misinformation about the Israel-Hamas conflict on X were in fact “verified” users, thus potentially giving the posts a “boost” on the site.
Moreover, so-called “verified” users are also eligible for payments if their content is widely shared, arguably creating an incentive to continue to post salacious content.
X did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment on the October report.
“These are serious issues, you have to take the idea of responsibility seriously,” Wales added. “What [Musk] refers to as censorship we refer to as thoughtful editorial judgement, which is a very different matter.”
‘I just ignore him’
Musk’s most recent tussle with another tech titan—he’s previously sparred with Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos—began with a supposed offer of funds.
Wikipedia, which was created for free and without advertising, for a number of years has asked users for donations towards its work.
The richest man on the planet screenshot this appeal, and captioned it on X: “I will give them a billion dollars if they change their name to Dickipedia.”
In the same thread he also criticized the information logged on his own Wikipedia page.
Wales brushed off the interaction, saying this week: “He’s had a war of words with me, I just ignore him. I didn’t really respond to that. He’s a funny guy.”
“Elon will be Elon,” he later added.