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‘I hope India stands up to US domination of the Internet’

Yunus Y. Lasania
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Zack Exley
Zack Exley

On a late Friday afternoon a few days ago, several of Hyderabad’s engineering students listened with rapt attention as Zack Exley, former chief revenue officer and chief community officer of the Wikimedia Foundation, spoke on Wikipedia’s credibility and the need for more internet freedom.

Mr. Exley was in the city to attend an internet freedom event titled Freedom Fest organised by Swecha, a voluntary organisation, insisted in the course of an interview to YUNUS Y. LASANIA that Wikipedia is more accurate than professionally produced reference works such as Britannica and others.

Students of several educational institutions are advised not to use Wikipedia as a source for study material, the reason being that anyone can edit posts and enter right or wrong information.

The community of about one lakh editors keeps watch over most articles every day, so the concern that ‘anyone can edit’ is misplaced.

It’s great that anyone can edit. With 20 million total articles, the chance that you’re looking at a vandalised one is really tiny.

Schools should advise their students to use Wikipedia as any other reference work. They should not use it as a primary source, but as a tertiary source. They should not be citing it in papers.

Is it possible to make sure editors change context to make pages better? Like the sources – maybe people editing text must have a definite source?

There are many rules that govern what content can be included and not included. All facts on Wikipedia must be backed up by a citation to a “reliable source”.

Wikipedia has a complex process to determine what is and is not a reliable source.

Where does India stand on internet freedom?

I hope India stands up to domination of the Internet by a single country. India is the world’s largest democracy and has great moral legitimacy in speaking out against control and abuse of the Internet by the United States.

What do you see happening in the global internet network in the next five years?

I think it all depends on what kind of internet people organise.

If we accept the path we’re on, then we’ll all be living in 24x7 surveillance all the time. If we organise to change the internet, then we can retain the basic human expectation of privacy.

Why is sharing information, either through torrents, or through any other way, such a threat (to corporations)? Limewire for instance, was taken down, and it has left many internet users angry a lot of information was lost.

A car company doesn’t have to worry about “piracy”, because to “copy” a car, you need an auto factory.

To copy information, on the other hand, you only need a smartphone, tablet or laptop. That’s the sense in which ‘information wants to be free’. Personally,

I believe that there is no strong argument for protecting intellectual property under law. Creative people create for the thrill of it, not for the slim chance of great profit.


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