Wales founded Wikipedia, the encyclopaedia anyone can edit. He wants to borrow that community-based approach for his new venture, Wikitribune.
The idea is to bring together journalists – 10, to start with – and volunteers to create articles that are free for everyone to read.
Mr Wales told Sky News: “It’s really an effort to think about new ways to bring in communities, professional journalists and a new business model. But a piece of it is this fake news piece.”
Wikitribune bills itself as “evidence-based journalism” or, as news organisations like Sky News quaintly call it, “journalism”.
“The idea that we have to say things like fact-based journalism or fact-checked journalism is unfortunate,” Mr Wales said.
“But we do live in an era where we’ve seen the growth of a lot of really low quality media outlets, ranging from true fake news to just a lot of nonsense, and this had been driven in large part by the online, advertising-only business model.”
Instead of advertising or paywalls, the site will rely on monthly supporters giving money. The idea is that the community can reduce some of the costs that make good journalism relatively expensive.
Independent fact-checking organisations and citizen journalism sites already exist. Mr Wales argued that these have not combined an engaged, thoughtful community with professional journalists.
But if news is “broken”, as Wikitribune claims on its site, the problem is less to do with production than distribution.
There are plenty of high-quality, trustworthy news sources in the world. The problem is that people do not see those outlets on their newsfeeds.
Wikitribune’s challenge will be to reach beyond its own community.
Will Moy, director of Full Fact, a fact-checking organisation that has been running for seven years and is now working with Facebook to combat fake news, told Sky News: “If you are only talking to people who are already interested in the news, you’ve got a bit of a problem.”
And those pushing fake news for political purposes are numerous and highly-motivated.
Ryan Broderick, a Buzzfeed journalist who has been tracking fake news during the French Presidential election, said that Wikitribune is using the tactics of fake news to beat it.
“To crowd source news verification – that’s typically how the far-right does it.
“I published a story today where dozens of 4chan users were trying to figure out the best hoax they could spread about Macron
“Ten journalists at Wikitribune – they are up against a massive, massive thing.
“They are up against a culture who are actively doing this and on purpose.”
Then again, most measures – including from the tech giants of the world – have failed.
Fighting fire with fire might be the best option.