Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales took a swing at Elon Musk’s tech empire, targeting the billionaire’s social network X and dismissing his new artificial intelligence chatbot Grok.
Speaking on the opening night of the controversy-plagued Web Summit in Lisbon, when asked about Large Language Models (LLMs) using Wikipedia data that feed chatbots like ChatGPT, Wales expressed satisfaction with the idea they’re leveraging his site’s content rather than Musk’s platform.
He quipped: “I’m pretty happy that they’re (LLMs) reading Wikipedia and not just Elon Musk’s Twitter; It’s not really a great source of truth.” The remark sparked a round of applause from the crowd at Europe’s largest tech conference, which survived an exodus of sponsors after its cofounder indirectly accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza.
Seizing the opportunity for a lighthearted jab, Wales revealed: “I told them backstage I will have one whack at Elon. It’s always a crowd pleaser.”
When probed about Musk’s very own LLM, ‘Grok,’ Wales professed ignorance, responding: “I haven’t even heard of it.”
Musk vs Wikipedia ongoing battle
The jibes were the latest round of a series of spats between the world’s richest man and the Wikipedia cofounder.
In a recent post on X (formerly Twitter), Musk offered a $1 billion donation to Wikipedia, proposing a name change to “Dickipedia” for what he deemed the “interests of accuracy.”
The exchange followed a May incident in which Wales criticized Musk for allegedly acquiescing to Turkish censorship requests to silence critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on X.
In response, Musk defended his actions, posing a choice between X being throttled entirely or limiting access to specific tweets.
Wales countered Musk’s stance, highlighting Wikipedia’s commitment to principles by resisting Turkish censorship through legal battles. The Turkish telecom watchdog had blocked Wikipedia in the country for over two years, citing laws allowing the ban of sites deemed obscene or a threat to national security.
Wales tips ChatGPT to evolve like eBay
In addition to poking fun at Musk, Wales also shared insights into the evolution of technology, drawing parallels with historical instances of alarmism that plagued the early days of tech giant eBay.
“One of the things that we’ve seen over and over and over again, is a new technology comes out and there’s a really easy lazy alarmism that can happen,” Wales said.
“I remember in the early days of eBay, it was like, ‘Oh, no, somebody’s selling a gun on eBay. Oh, no, somebody’s selling their baby on eBay.’ Then after a while, we figured out you can list whatever you want on eBay, but people will report it, and it gets taken down. It’s actually not that exciting.
“Now when we look at the emergence of ChatGPT, clearly, it’s not good enough for a great many purposes. It’s an amazing thing to play with, but when you really start to use it, what initially seems fantastic you realize is pretty bad.
“I think it will continue to get better. But, you know, I think we’re still a long way from it being able to be a reliable source.”