Neowin reported on Sunday that Wikipedia co-founder and chairman emeritus Jimmy Wales had relinquished his editing and content management roles at Wikimedia. This was because he came under unrelenting fire from the Wikimedia community for single-handedly and arbitrarily deleting images he considered pornographic from Wikimedia commons. While there was significant debate and rhetoric, Wales denies any reports that he has stepped down from any position at all. In his Twitter feed yesterday, he was repeatedly tweeting inquisitive followers that Fox News was completely wrong about the story; Techcrunch learned via email that Wales was never contacted by Fox News about the reports of a top-level political shakeup.
Neowin was able to speak with one of the Wikimedia Stewards, the moderators in charge of community activity throughout the Wikimedia universe, about Fox News' coverage of the situation. He confirmed Wales' and Techcrunch's reports that Fox News had many of their facts wrong. "It's mostly fabrication[.] He didn't resign, he merely gave up a few technical abilities he doesn't really use. There is no chaos ensuing, and the Wikimedia projects are chugging along with the normal drama that that entails." Also, "He still has admin tools on English Wikipedia, where he actually uses them from time to time." According to the source, the "few technical abilities" that he did give up were, aside from being virtually unused, were given up as a statement to the community confirming his role as a community leader and not as an editorial authority.
Reports of Wales scrambling to delete images in response to donor pressure and FBI investigations are also sensational, our source tells us.
"Jimmy wasn't deleting [content] because it was kiddie porn...it was deleted because he didn't think it fit within the project scope. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. But his decision was more about whether the images were useful for our purposes than anything else. Sure, it is embarassing to have Fox screaming about how terrible you are, but that wasn't the most important thing."
Our source also wanted to emphasize that the fiery debate spawned by the pornography controversy was not only normal and healthy, but expected whenever Wales gets involved in editorial situations.
"Jimmy's leadership tends not to be needed in obvious cases. Where it isn't obvious is where we often need advice, and Jimmy is often the person to do that. It follows just by logic that when he's involved it isn't going to be obvious one way or the other what should happen, and controversy will therefore follow."
From browsing the Wikimedia discussion archives on the issues of arbitrary deletion and questionable content management, the issues can be clearly seen as inflammatory. However, inflammatory is the worst of it. From the sources Neowin has spoken to, inflammatory is perfectly acceptable and somewhat expected, and nothing like the chaos initially reported is actually transpiring.