Only an event titled “Big Fat Brussels Meeting” (BFBM) could follow on the heels of the very successful “WikiCheese” in the same city. BFBM is an annual event that the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU (FKAGEU) has hosted since 2013. It brings together European affiliates and community for a two-day, intensive work session on advocacy around public policy in the European Union (EU). Participants share public policy concerns and coordinate their advocacy priorities for the coming year. Clear shared priorities and goals make it possible for Wikimedians across Europe to pursue policy advocacy on a national level while having a regional impact. For example, if someone in Sweden is working towards the same copyright exceptions as someone in the Czechia, then they can benefit from sharing arguments each one has developed and can also feel more secure in their policy asks, knowing that it is a shared, global Wikimedia position. Joint coordination around public policy advocacy has become such a big priority for Wikimedians in the region that it helped set the foundation for Wikimedia Europe.
BFBM VIII was held from 2 – 3 December, 2022. The organizers (including one of the authors of this blog post) set a clear agenda: ‘Copyright is (mostly) transposed and the main content moderation law (DSA) has been passed, but there is a flurry of reforms to keep tabs on. Let’s review them all, prioritise and form small “action teams” to work on them.’ But it wasn’t all business. After three years of hiatus for in-person events, reconnecting and meeting new joiners (potentially over beers or frites) was also a top priority! Over 20 Wikimedians came to Brussels, including members of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Global Advocacy team. Here’s what they discussed.
Hearts & Minds
The group discussed that it is important to not only focus on actions that are directly tied to specific pieces of legislation, but also to show who is part of the Wikimedia movement, how we work, and that it can be a lot of fun. Only by making our movement more visible and better understood can Wikimedia projects and the movement be taken into consideration in EU public policy files. Events like WikiCheese are one example of making Wikimedia’s work tangible (and edible): a social gathering where attendees are invited to bring a lesser known cheese from their own country so that a photo can be taken and added to Commons is fun, memorable, and converts attendees into Wikimedians.
One popular idea that came out of this year’s BFBM was to set up an interactive exhibit about Wikipedia at the EU institutions. Other ideas focused on events to celebrate Wikipedia and make its role in society more visible. Got more ideas? Feel welcome to share them on our discussion list: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Commons & Digital Public Infrastructure
Wikimedians noted that it is odd that in the physical world we have plenty of public and publicly owned spaces to meet, exchange ideas, discuss or celebrate—from public squares and parks, to town halls and theaters. Yet on the internet, almost all of these spaces are centralised, privately owned & for-profit. Very few are private and not-for-profit. Even fewer are publicly owned.
The group hypothesised that our European society might become more resilient to threats like disinformation and lack of personal privacy if we relied more equally on more diverse types of platform models. To that end, we are currently trying to come up with action items that can be proposed to the governments and institutions which could help us advance in this direction. Preliminary ideas include a European hosting infrastructure for public service and cultural information, and that public broadcasters and other institutions could be involved in hosting online conversations (for which they need investment in content moderation for public service institutions). We also think that Europe should offer more funds to support the digitisation of cultural institutions to make their collections more widely available. If you have more ideas for actionable items, feel free to share them at email@example.com.
Public Domain Status for Government Works
We have long supported the stance that content created with public money should be re-usable by the public. Campaigns like Public Money, Public Code and Öffentliches Geld – Öffentliches Gut! are just two prominent examples of such demands. We also like the European Commission’s re-use decision, that makes all its content compatible with projects like Wikipedia, unless otherwise stated.
It is a pity, however, that this re-use decision doesn’t cover works by other EU institutions, most notably the Council and the Parliament. And we believe it is time to fix this! We want to work on putting an “inter-institutional agreement” that would extend the re-use decision to all EU institutions on the next Commission’s agenda and in the programmes of the political groups. If you would like to help us with this agenda-setting exercise, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Privacy & Age-Gating
One question we need to discuss in the global movement is: how do we deal with age-gating? Many laws and jurisdictions across the world are moving towards requirements for platforms to check for users’ ages before making content accessible to them. However, verifying the age of users would mean that Wikimedia would need to gather more personal data on them, which conflicts with Wikimedia’s privacy policies and practices. We are concerned that age-gating requirements will prevent us from providing a space that is universally accessible and safe for everyone.
Public policy advocacy work is accessible to all Wikimedians and is only strengthened by more voices, ideas, and individual efforts. The very ‘wisdom of crowds’ that makes Wikimedia projects so successful also applies to our movement’s advocacy efforts: passionate individuals who work towards a shared goal together can be successful! If you’re interested in any of the topics covered in this blog post, you can stay informed and involved: read the FKAGEU blog, peruse their Meta-Wiki, or send them an email (email@example.com).
Not based in the EU? No problem. The coordination you read about in this blogpost is not unique to the EU. The Wikimedia Foundation Global Advocacy team has regional specialists and dedicated staff to support Wikimedians who wish to pursue public policy advocacy in their countries. You can learn more about how to work with the team here, send them an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and sign-up to the public policy mailing list.
Ziski Putz, Movement Advocacy Manager, Wikimedia Foundation
Dimi Dimitrov, EU Policy Director, FKAGEU
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