Don’t Blink: Public Policy Snapshot for July 2022

Welcome to the “Don’t Blink” series! Every month we share developments from around the world that shape people’s ability to participate in the free knowledge movement. In case you blinked this month, here are the most important topics that have kept the Wikimedia Foundation’s Global Advocacy team busy.

To learn more about our team and the work we do, join one of our monthly conversation hours, follow us on Twitter (@WikimediaPolicy), sign up to our Wikimedia public policy mailing list, or visit our Meta-Wiki page.


Wikimedia Foundation Celebrates Two Major Milestones

July was a historic month for the Foundation on two fronts: externally at the United Nations Economic and Social Affairs Council, and internally via the publication of the Foundation’s first Human Rights Impact Assessment. These developments are decisive steps that advance the strength of the free knowledge movement as well as our movement’s ability to protect and promote access to knowledge and human rights in relation to the Wikimedia ecosystem around the world. 

In this edition we dedicate special space to these landmark events and break down the most essential information for you.

1) Wikimedia Foundation Gains Consultative Status at United Nations

The Wikimedia Foundation was granted accreditation as an observer by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on 21 July 2022. We have spelled out the what and why below. 

  • What is ECOSOC observer status? ECOSOC is the United Nations (UN) body responsible for leading international discussions on economic and social issues. ECOSOC also works alongside other UN bodies to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Observer status at the Council enables non-governmental organizations like the Wikimedia Foundation to enrich and shape ECOSOC efforts by sharing their expert advice and expressing their concerns and views in discussions, to do so at the subsidiary bodies of ECOSOC and to be allowed  participation at special events.
  • Why does it matter for Wikimedians and the free knowledge movement? The fact that 23 countries voted in support of the Foundation signals strong support for organizations and movements like ours, which stand up for human rights and freedom of expression. For the Wikimedia Foundation, accreditation amounts to an opportunity to represent the interests of the free knowledge movement in global conversations around the role of access to knowledge in advancing sustainable development. As a formal player in UN processes, the Foundation can work directly with member states and other stakeholders to promote greater and more equitable access to free knowledge. Part of this involves showcasing Wikimedia’s collaborative model of creating and sharing knowledge. 

2) Wikimedia Foundation Publishes Human Rights Impact Assessment

The Foundation published its first human rights impact assessment (HRIA) on 11 July 2022. The report evaluates human rights risks that may be related to Wikimedia projects, platforms, or activities. The findings help everyone in the Wikimedia movement better identify, understand, and address those risks. Full details about how the report came to be and what it means for the movement are available in a Diff blog post.

  • What is the human rights impact assessment? An HRIA helps to identify and consider potential responses to human rights risks. This specific report was commissioned to understand human rights risks related to Wikimedia projects, platforms, and activities. It helps us identify opportunities to address and mitigate those risks, essentially making our knowledge ecosystem safer and more equitable.
  • Why was the report produced? The report was produced because hosting a platform for curating, sharing, and contributing knowledge, even with the intention of promoting access to educational content, can also impact fundamental rights centred around free expression, privacy, and equity. The report examines how these activities impact fundamental human rights, and also provides recommendations to help the Foundation and movement volunteers address and mitigate any risks to the continued advancement of human rights and access to free knowledge.
  • How will the report help the Wikimedia movement safeguard human rights? The report helps us identify what and where risks are associated with Wikimedia projects. Five key risk areas were highlighted. It also provides recommendations on how these can be addressed. Some recommendations were very high-level, like adopting a Human Rights Policy. Others required additional time and resources, like recruiting staff with expertise in human rights. Others again were more tactical. We have already acted upon some of these recommendations, but to address others we will need your feedback. 
  • What does this have to do with me? The publication of this HRIA is also meant to start a conversation on these challenges and solutions within our movement. This is a long-term effort, not a quick fix. Let us know your thoughts at Wikimania (virtual session), the HRIA talk page, or the Movement Strategy Forum.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Argentina’s Supreme Court protects Freedom of Expression: The Supreme Court of Justice of Argentina delivered a decision last month that upheld freedom of expression and protected free access to public information in a case regarding the right to be forgotten. Our analysis is now available. We explain how the decision sets an important precedent for protecting access to reliable, verified information about people that is of public interest. The Foundation cautions against the potential negative impact that removing content online can have on access to relevant and reliable information. We argued as much in an amicus brief that we submitted to the case in March 2022. Details about how we protect freedom of expression and access to information are available in our biannual Transparency Report, which documents right to be forgotten requests we receive, and our responses to those and other requests to remove or alter information on our projects.
  • WikiCon Brasil: The Brazilian Wikimedia community hosted its first conference, WikiCon Brasil, on 23-24 July. The conference focused on the circulation of false information, and how volunteers from the Wikimedia movement fight against it. Amalia Toledo, Lead Public Policy Specialist for Latin America & the Caribbean, led an informal conversation with community members about the Global Advocacy team’s priorities and the political and regulatory environments in Brazil. In these images you can see that we exist IRL too.

North America

  • US Copyright Office plenary: The Foundation participated in a plenary session held by the US Copyright Office inquiring into what the government’s role might be in identifying standard technical measures (STMs). Kate Ruane, Lead Public Policy Specialist for the US, represented the Foundation’s perspective of skepticism of the government’s role in identifying or mandating the use of STMs. We voiced support for a process where stakeholders could discuss appropriate technical measures without the threat of regulation.

Announcements from our Team

  • Help us combat disinformation: We are launching a public mapping project to counter disinformation. We need your help. Our goal is to compile all the initiatives and tools that have been developed at the local level across Wikipedia projects so that we can share them with the entire movement and support each other better. If you are aware of any initiative, tool, training, or other form of community engagement around misinformation, disinformation, or information integrity, please let us know. Send an e-mail with the subject “disinformation mapping” to Costanza Sciubba Caniglia (csciubbacaniglia@wikimedia.org), our Anti-Disinformation Strategy Lead, and copy Ziski Putz (fputz@wikimedia.org).
  • Join us at Wikimania: We’re hosting a session at Wikimania! Join us on Sunday, 14 August at 17:45 UTC for a workshop focused on human rights. Participants will help us brainstorm solutions to address specific human rights challenges facing Wikimedia projects and platforms, including issues like harmful content, harassment, government surveillance and censorship, and challenges to knowledge equity. Our goal is to crowdsource ideas on how the movement can better mitigate these challenges and, in turn, protect Wikimedians’ human rights. We hope you join and share your thoughts with us.

Follow us on Twitter, check our Meta-Wiki, or join our mailing list for updates. We hope to see you there.