Knowledge knows no boundaries

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Photo by NASA, public domain/CC0.
Photo by NASA, public domain/CC0.

At the Wikimedia Foundation, our mission was born of a belief that everyone, everywhere, has something to contribute to our shared human understanding. We believe in a world that encourages and protects the open exchange of ideas and information, community and culture; where people of every country, language, and culture can freely collaborate without restriction; and where international cooperation leads to common understanding.
The new U.S. administration’s executive order on immigration is an affront to this vision. It impedes the efforts of our colleagues and communities who work together from around the world to make shared, open knowledge accessible to all. When our ability to come together across borders is restricted, the world is poorer for it.
Knowledge knows no borders. Our collective human wisdom has long been built through the exchange of ideas, from our first navigational knowledge of the seas to our ongoing exploration of the heavens. When one society has stumbled and slipped into ignorance, others have preserved our records and archives, and built upon them. Throughout the Early Middle Ages in Europe, scholars in Baghdad kept alive the writings of Greek philosophers. These meticulous studies, along with the discoveries of Persian and Arab mathematicians, would in turn help spark the intellectual renaissance of Europe.
Wikipedia is an example of what is possible when borders do not hinder the exchange of ideas. Today, Wikipedia contains more than 40 million articles across nearly 300 languages. It is built one person at a time, across continent and language. It is built through collaboration in person and in communities, at international gatherings of ordinary individuals from around the world. These collaborative efforts serve hundreds of millions of people every month, opening up opportunity and education to all.
The Wikimedia Foundation is headquartered in the U.S., where we have unique freedoms that are essential to supporting the Wikimedia projects. But our mission is global. We support communities and projects from every corner of the globe. Our staff and community members need to be able to move freely in order to support this global movement and foster the sharing of ideas and knowledge, no matter their country of origin.
We strongly urge the U.S. administration to withdraw the recent executive order restricting travel and immigration from certain nations, and closing the doors to many refugees. It threatens our freedoms of inquiry and exchange, and it infringes on the fundamental rights of our colleagues, our communities, and our families.
Although our individual memories may be short, the arc of history is long, and it unfurls in a continuous progression of openness. At the Wikimedia Foundation, we will continue to stand up for our values of open discourse and international cooperation. We join hands with everyone who does.
Katherine Maher, Executive Director
Wikimedia Foundation

Archive notice: This is an archived post from, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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I am disappointed but not surprised by this blog post, given my Facebook feed. The events of the past week do NOT have a direct impact on Wikipedia’s mission, as collaboration is done online. It is a poor excuse to have the WMF take sides on a political debate. It may make many WMF employees and others in privileged positions from Western countries happy, but it is chilling to those with differing political viewpoints. It is one thing to post opinions from one’s personal Facebook account and quite another to post on the Foundation’s official blog in one’s official capacity.… Read more »

“Knowledge knows no borders” absolutely true.But U.S. administration’s recent ‘order reinforces the border’.Unexpected paradox and that to in 21st century.Jimmy wales also emphasised in his inaugural address at Wikimania 2016 held in Esino Lario , Itlay that “Wikipedia is about building bridges and not walls.” The US Government should rethink and must withdraw the present order in broader interest of the world and exchange of knowledge.

Great article! Thank you, Katherine!

Great job, Katherine! #Wikimedia


Nobody could disagree with these sentiments.
Just because we enjoy facts and detail, there is a {{citation needed}} on “[history] unfurls in a continuous progression of openness”, as the examples of past times in the post illustrate, in dark times openness goes backwards and knowledge has been permanently lost. It is complacent to believe this could never happen again in our lifetimes when it is not hard to find examples of it happening today.

Thanks for issuing this statement Katherine. I expected no less from the Wikimedia Foundation and it makes me proud to be part of such a global movement.

I hope President Trump knows what he’s doing and my hope and believe is that these national bans are lifted soon. The lessened exchange of ideas and information from the Middle East is unsettling. We may still have online communication from the ME but we know how restrictive some countries there can be on their citizens internet activity which makes it even more important that these bans are resolved soon.

Thank you for your vision Katherine, This was enlightening. Greetings from Iran 🙂

Thank you, Katherine! “Wikipedia is an example of what is possible when borders do not hinder the exchange of ideas.” is a great statement.

You can make the case that travel restrictions impact Wikimedia’s goals, but how, pray tell, does the refugee resettlement policy of some country affect the writing of an encyclopedia?

Acceptable political opinions stop when human rights are violated, when human dignity is flouted, and when people are discriminated because of their sex, race, or culture.

Leigh Thelmadatter makes an excellent point: this sort of virtue signalling can have a real negative impact as far as welcoming diverse viewpoints to Wikipedia.

Wikip(m)edia has open to me a lane to share my modest knowledge to the world in the past ,present and the future.yes angry i am. but i am not worry. My entire trust with the US people. they can reverse the situation. the history has neverever liared.
Thks Katherine for this great post

I’m very glad to see the Wikimedia Foundation taking this stance. Thank you Katherine Maher for this eloquent post. Although we collaborate online, we also move across countries, build international partnerships and friendships or just meet in person to learn from each other. Leigh Thelmadatter knows this: she has spoken more than once at international conferences. She has been able to travel despite living in one of the countries at the top of the white supremacists’ hit list. I do not know how she reconciles this knowledge with the stance she takes in her comment. Not long ago, “virtue signaling”… Read more »

Alright. I look forward to strong denunciations by the Wikimedia Foundation of every other country that has restrictive immigration or travel policies, lest anyone think that the WMF sometimes tolerates bigotry.

Anyone who thinks this US government move doesn’t affect the encyclopedia and the other projects doesn’t really understand how Wikipedia does what it does and what goes into that.

Looking forward to a strong WMF condemnation of Saudi Arabia’s travel and immigration policies.

WMF shouldn’t engage in such political discourse. This is not what donators are donating for, and WMF is run with the money from those donators. It is also not what the thousands of volunteer contributors contribute for, nor what they need from the WMF to support them, which is the role and the work the WMF should be doing.

[…] the Wikimedia Foundation, we believe firmly that knowledge knows no borders. In support of free knowledge and the international cooperation that makes our work possible, we […]

[…] del artículo “Knowledge knows no boundaries” por Katherine Maher, directora ejecutiva de la Fundación Wikimedia, publicado el 30 de […]

What “unique freedoms” are there in the United States and absolutely nowhere else “that are essential to supporting the Wikimedia projects”?

Like others I personally admire the political stance of this blogpost, but I wonder at the priorities,the consistency and the match to our overall mission. Travel has often been an issue for the movement. We had people refused visas to attend Wikimania in London in 2014, Washington DC in 2013 and several other places over the years (how many Muslims attended Wikimania when it was in Haifa?). I could understand and would welcome a commitment to hold our global conferences in places that are more open for visitors. This blog either reads that we are more concerned about restrictions on… Read more »

[…] Maher é diretora executiva da  Fundação Wikimedia. O texto Knowledge knows no boundaries  foi originalmente publicado em 30 de janeiro de 2017 no blog da Fundação […]

As Katherine Maher words I totally belive what she said,
Knowledge is of no value unless you put into the practise. And the effort I seen in your wiki blog what you have done. Thanks for sharing your experience and wonderfull thoughts. I really love the blog.

[…] please see our February 5, 2017 blog post about the amicus we joined in Washington. Additionally, the January 30 statement by our Executive Director Katherine Maher discusses the Foundation’s philosophy of making free […]