The Wikimedia Foundation is honored to join the Global Network Initiative (GNI) as an observer, an opportunity we hope will advance our efforts to champion freedom of expression and privacy for the Wikimedia community and beyond. GNI is a channel for collective action, advocating to governments and international institutions for policies and laws which promote free expression and privacy. As an observer to GNI, the Wikimedia Foundation will be able to benefit from this accomplished network of human rights defenders, and apply the insights we gain to our existing worldwide efforts to advance these two fundamental rights.
Principle to the Wikimedia movement is the idea of collaboration. Our projects are continually expanded and improved by a global community of volunteers, and we rely on donations from millions of people worldwide to continue operating year after year. Thus, when the opportunity arose to join GNI and collaborate with other leaders in both technology and digital rights, it was only natural for the Wikimedia Foundation to engage. Everyone who joins GNI, from large technology companies to civil society groups fighting for human rights online, has indicated their commitment to addressing and solving the most prescient issues in GNI’s focus areas. By working with other member organizations and companies to further the rights of internet users worldwide, our participation as an observer in GNI will be just one of many ways we give back to the global community who supports the Wikimedia movement.
The Wikimedia Foundation understands that the protection and promotion of human rights online is essential to what we do. In order to provide access to knowledge for everyone, we must protect freedom of expression on our projects. In practice, this means we work to keep Wikipedia volunteers free from attempts to block or censor their writing on Wikipedia or requests to remove their content. We hope that by participating in GNI, we can share our experiences not only as a large internet platform, but as a mission-driven organization that holds our values firm even in the face of threats. In return, we are sure that the insights we will gain from the combined experience of GNI’s members will help us to better our initiatives to promote free expression for our communities.
In addition to freedom of expression, GNI and its members believe in respecting user privacy rights, including initiatives to increase transparency and accountability in government surveillance. We believe that strong privacy rules and opposition to surveillance are a fundamental part of the freedom that allows people to read and contribute to Wikipedia. The Wikimedia Foundation has taken a clear stance defending our users’ right to privacy by taking part in a lawsuit challenging the NSA’s upstream surveillance collection activities and encrypting all traffic to and from Wikimedia projects through the HTTPS protocol. By taking concrete steps to defend user privacy, we are able to offer a unique perspective to other GNI members interested in how to better protect individuals. We hope that the connections we make within GNI will strengthen our own efforts to ensure that people are free to read and write Wikipedia without fear of anyone looking over their shoulder.
The Wikimedia Foundation reflects our commitment to GNI’s mission in both our actions as the host of Wikipedia and our greater advocacy efforts through the Wikimedia movement. We are excited to collaborate with and learn from the variety of committed organizations and individuals who make up GNI in order to further these efforts to promote freedom of expression and privacy worldwide and ensure that everyone, everywhere can have access to knowledge.
Jan Gerlach, Senior Public Policy Manager