Two weeks ago, Dr. James Heilman discovered something strange. The Canadian emergency room physician and avid Wikipedia contributor noticed that DrugBank, an online database for drug information, was copying text directly from Wikipedia. Although Heilman considers Wikipedia’s medical content to be of surprisingly good quality, he was concerned—because he didn’t just find DrugBank copying and citing Wikipedia; he had also found several examples of Wikipedia likewisecopying and citing DrugBank.
When you ask Amazon’s Alexa, “What is Wikipedia?” it’ll tell you this: “Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free encyclopedia based on a model of openly editable content.” Alexa took this line directly from Wikipedia’s entry on Wikipedia, as it does with many of its answers. Perhaps what it should have said was this: “Wikipedia is the source from which I take much of my information, without credit, contribution, or compensation.”
That’s about to change. Or is it? Amazon recently donated $1 million to the Wikimedia Endowment, a fund that keeps Wikipedia running, as “part of Amazon’s and CEO Jeff Bezos’ growing work in philanthropy,” according to CNET. It’s being framed as a “gift,” one that—as Amazonputs it—recognizes their shared vision to “make it easier to share knowledge globally.” Amazon also noted the ability for users to easily donate to Wikimedia through the Alexa Donations feature, with the voice command “Alexa, donate to Wikipedia.”…
But it’s not just the fact that this donation is, in the scheme of things, paltry. It’s that this “endowment” is dwarfed by what Amazon and its ilk get out of Wikipedia—figuratively and literally.