In a recent conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk once again raised concerns about the influence of Wikipedia on shaping historical narratives. Musk’s comments shed light on the potential for historical accounts to be manipulated by active contributors who hold opposing viewpoints.
During the discussion, which focused on the geopolitical implications of artificial intelligence and its regulation, Musk humorously remarked, “History is written by the victors, but not if your enemies are still alive and have a lot of time on their hands to edit Wikipedia.” Netanyahu joined in with a witty response, saying, “History is written by the people who can harness the most number of editors.” Musk elaborated on his point, emphasizing that individuals with differing perspectives and ample free time can significantly impact the content on Wikipedia.
This isn’t the first time Elon Musk has taken aim at Wikipedia. Earlier this year, he made a favorable comparison between Twitter and the online encyclopedia, asserting that Twitter promotes free speech more effectively. This critique from Musk coincided with content scrutiny controversies that arose during Turkish parliamentary and presidential elections. In response to a user’s question, Musk stated that Twitter, now known as X following a rebranding, “pushed harder for speech” than any other internet company, including humorously misspelling Wikipedia as “Wokipedia” and tagging co-founder Jimmy Wales.
In 2020, Musk encouraged his social media followers to edit his Wikipedia page, sparking heightened vigilance among Wikipedia moderators. As a result, his page was placed under “Extended Protection” to prevent unauthorized edits. At that time, Musk playfully quipped, “History is written by the victors… except on Wikipedia, haha.”
Musk’s recurring criticism of Wikipedia highlights concerns about the platform’s vulnerability to manipulation and bias in historical narratives. While Wikipedia’s open-editing model allows for a collaborative approach to information dissemination, it also leaves room for disputes and contentious edits, particularly on topics that involve competing ideologies or interests.
The debate over Wikipedia’s reliability and neutrality in presenting historical facts continues to be a subject of discussion among tech leaders, scholars, and the broader public. Elon Musk’s humorous yet thought-provoking comments serve as a reminder of the power and potential pitfalls of online platforms in shaping our understanding of history.