X, formerly Twitter, being ‘overrun by trolls and lunatics’ after Musk takeover, Wikipedia founder says


LISBON — Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales slammed X, formerly known as Twitter, after its takeover by Elon Musk, saying the social media service is losing users and has been “overrun by trolls and lunatics.”

The comments continue a war of words between the two high-profile technology figures that goes back to last year.

Responding to a question about what Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter means for the social media landscape, Wales responded on Tuesday: “It’s a huge problem.”

“I think a lot of people are fleeing Twitter, a lot of thoughtful and serious people are fleeing Twitter,” Wales told CNBC at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon.

“Twitter was, and now I guess X sort of is, in a way, 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 did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by CNBC. Research from analytics firm Similarweb shows engagement metrics are down for X compared to last year.

Wales’ comments come after Musk offered Wikipedia $1 billion if it changes its name to “Dickipedia.”

The spat between the two goes back to last year when Musk alleged Wikipedia has “a non-trivial left-wing bias.” That was in response to Wikipedia editors debating whether to remove the platform’s entry on the Twitter Files. These are a set of files Musk said support claims that the company’s prior management handled content moderation in a way that was biased against conservatives. 

Wikipedia did not end up deleting the entry. Wikipedia relies on a community of volunteers to keep its content updated.

“I mean, he’s had a war of words with me, I just ignore him. So I didn’t really respond to that,” Wales said, referring to Musk’s $1 billion dollar offer for a name change.

“What he refers to as censorship, we refer to as thoughtful editorial judgement, which is a very different matter. So, you know, Elon will be Elon.”

Earlier this year, Wales launched his answer to X, called Trust Cafe. Wales described it as a “pilot project” with the aim of creating a “community of trustworthy people.”

Wales said he is trying to built a platform that has “content based on its trustworthiness rather than its viral likability.” It’s not ad supported but rather based on voluntary membership.

“It’s got to be a really quality experience, something that they feel enhances their lives,” Wales said, explaining how he plans to get people to pay for the service.

Trust Cafe allows people to post X-style posts and others to comment. You can search for posts by topic such as technology or world news. “I don’t know if I’ve got the answers, but I’m trying,” Wales admitted in regards to Trust Cafe.

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