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MIT blogger Rona W. '21

writing gary wang’s wikipedia page by Rona W. '23

why did I fill out the wikipedia page for the ftx cto?

Cross-posted on my Substack here.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Gary Wang’s newly-created Wikipedia page. Gary Wang, for the uninitiated, is the former CTO of FTX. He’s quite reclusive, and despite being a wealthy, high-powered individual helming one of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, his Wikipedia page was only created after FTX’s collapse.

When I found his page on December 25th, it had only been created three days prior, and was quite sparse.

a screenshot of gary wang's wikipedia page when i first saw it

what the page looked like when I found it

The last time I edited a Wikipedia page was when I was eleven years old. I think I edited some governmental history of a foreign country and put my own name down as the prime minister. I sent the link to my friends, like, haha check it out. Then I got banned from Wikipedia for vandalism.

I’m not entirely sure what compelled me to make a Wikipedia account and add more to Gary Wang’s Wikipedia page. It was winter break and I was bored, sure. Yes, I feel some connection to this entire FTX catastrophe as SBF and Gary Wang both attended MIT, my current institution—it has stirred up questions for me about what an MIT education should mean, what responsibilities the privilege of being associated with a prestigious school brings, and what blind spots might be embedded in my studies as a math and computer science double-major. These are really interesting questions to me and I might write more about them in a later post.

If I were being uncharitable to myself, maybe I would say it was ego—contributing to such a high-profile individual’s Wikipedia page is one of the easiest, high-impact avenues of shaping collective knowledge. Everybody looks at Wikipedia, it has great SEO, yet anybody can edit it (albeit with the risk of getting banned, as my sixth-grade experience demonstrated).

There also probably was some sense of kinship: yes, Wang is the most common surname in the world, but it’s still a surname that I share with Gary. He’s not that much older than me, and he studied computer science and mathematics at MIT too. Of course, these are surface-level similarities and I have no insight into his interior life, and no reason to believe we have anything else in common. Still, I grew up without seeing many tech executives who looked like me. I won’t pretend writing his Wikipedia page was a meaningful instance of anti-racism activism, but Gary Wang’s (likely voluntary) erasure from FTX’s frenzied publicity, despite his significant role within the company, made me want to amplify his presence within the narrative. A fact that might’ve tugged at my subconscious: in 21, a heist film about the MIT Blackjack Team, the protagonist was white, despite being Asian American in real life.

Anyway, I scoured the internet for reliable sources on Gary Wang’s life, and added what I could find. Out of curiosity, I also looked him up in the MIT alumni directory, although I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t count as a Wikipedia source, since it’s only accessible to MIT affiliates.

gary wang's wikipedia page after i edited it

the page after I added more information

There wasn’t too much information available on the Internet. My goal wasn’t to smear Gary or to exalt him. I simply wanted to humanize him by providing a brief sketch of his life. SBF and Caroline Ellison received multiple New York Magazine articles detailing their childhoods, so Gary Wang’s Wikipedia page could at least include a few more sentences about who he was outside of FTX. Plus, I wanted to know, who was Gary Wang before his downfall? Could this disaster have been foreseen somehow?

In the past two weeks or so since I filled out his Wikipedia page, it has received more views than I anticipated, given that the FTX crash is no longer front-page news:

a screenshot showing 15k+ views of the page

As the investigation into FTX progresses, I’m sure more information pertaining to Gary will surface publicly. I don’t know if I’ll continue updating his Wikipedia page—my goal was never to salaciously document every detail about this scandal, and I’ve gleaned enough information already to satisfy my own curiosities. If I were to continue editing Wikipedia, I think those efforts would be better spent elsewhere, as there are so many other stories that should be researched and recorded.