Wikipedia.org had been launched nine months before the 9/11 terror attacks took place in New York City. The event catapulted Wikipedia into the spotlight and the mainstream as a source of information, but on the morning of September 11, its prospects were far from certain. As the attacks exposed the weaknesses of American’s 21st century communication, with cell phone networks struggling, first responders’ radios failing, and the world wide web slowing to a crawl, Wikipedia managed to hold up. A link to the Wikipedia article on 9/11 appeared on the Yahoo home page and traffic to the site began to spike. Over the succeeding years, internal battles over the 9/11 content helped Wikipedia clarify its role, or rather what its role was not. It was “not a newspaper” and “not a memorial.” Lessons learned during and in the aftermath of 9/11 helped Wikipedia develop its distributed, bottom-up approach which makes the site successful in battling abuse and misinformation, issues that many platforms struggle with right now.

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