Don’t Blink: Public Policy Snapshot for December 2022–January 2023

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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 public policy advocacy topics that have kept the Wikimedia Foundation busy.

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


Entering the New Year with More Insights

Now that the Wikimedia Foundation starts to plan for the next fiscal year, the Global Advocacy team wants to look back with you at 2022 and share how our learnings from that year are helping us organize how we’ll continue to serve Wikimedians and our audiences.

We asked our teammates to identify where we improved the most as well as what we accomplished, and both questions shared one clear answer: collaboration. We’re better at working together with our colleagues within the Foundation as well as Wikimedians. It’s cheesy, but tried and true: When we work together we can achieve great things.

Consider, for instance: joint advocacy on the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA), receiving accreditation to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), supporting affiliates to achieve their goals in relation to the United Kingdom’s proposed Online Safety Bill, setting up meetings with government representatives in Chile, and co-presenting Wikimedia projects’ contributions to the world at global forums like RightsCon.

We’ve also invested time and energy in doing a better job of explaining our team’s priorities, and how they respond to those of the Foundation and movement. Our priorities are three: Protecting the Wikimedia model, protecting Wikimedia’s people, and protecting Wikimedia’s values. We’ve presented these priorities at various movement-facing calls and events, updated our Meta-Wiki page, and even added a FAQ there. Last but not least, to help illustrate the way our everyday work addresses these priorities, we’ve restructured how we share developments in this monthly recap. Let us know if you can spot the changes!

Looking forward, here are three ways in which we want to continue our work in the next fiscal year. 

  1. First, we want to think and act according to a long-term strategy, so that we can pursue actions that have an extended impact, like engaging with other stakeholders thanks to our ECOSOC accreditation.
  2. Second, we want Wikimedia projects to become a compelling reference in public discourse around internet regulation and free knowledge issues: There is much that can be learned from Wikimedians’ community-driven moderation and the Foundation’s privacy models.
  3. Third, we want to work with affiliates to determine together which public policy activities they should lead, and which ones the Foundation should lead.

We can’t wait to continue collaborating with our colleagues and community throughout this new year!

Farewell to Kate Ruane, our Lead Public Policy Specialist for the United States

We are sad to announce Kate’s departure. She was an integral part of our team, whose impact was immediately felt. During Kate’s tenure, she helped to advance and shield the free knowledge movement by building coalitions, activating allies, submitting countless public comments on policy briefs, and helping Wikimedia influence US regulatory decisions that had an impact on foreign affairs. Kate’s extraordinary talent and dedication have landed her a role as PEN America’s inaugural Sy Syms Director, US Free Expression Programs. Although we will miss her work ethic, humor, and intimate familiarity with the workings of US policy, we can’t think of anyone better to launch the Global Advocacy team’s “Alumni Network.”

A few examples of her achievements in behalf of the free knowledge movement include:

  1. Protecting access to knowledge for Russian people: Thanks to Kate’s tireless work, two governments protected access to information in Russia. On the heels of an advocacy process that Kate led, in coalition with Access Now and other advocacy leaders, both the governments of the US and the UK authorized internet companies to continue providing essential internet services to people within Russia. These decisions ensured that the Russian people, Wikipedia volunteers, and independent media—including those speaking for human rights and against the war—can contribute to and consult reliable information about the conflict in Ukraine.
  2. Championing community-led content moderation: Kate spearheaded the Foundation’s opposition to the EARN IT Act, which could have significantly weakened protections that online intermediaries, like Wikipedia, have from liability concerning child sexual abuse material (CSAM), and also could have undermined encryption. Under her directive, the Foundation signed an open letter opposing the bill alongside a coalition of more than 60 other concerned organizations, which was published by the Center for Democracy and Technology. The open letter and our blog post on the bill were introduced into the US Congressional Record.
  3. Representing Wikimedia’s perspectives on copyright reform: Kate dedicated considerable time and effort to representing the Wikimedia movement’s needs in the context of diverse copyright discussions. Most notably, she helped the Foundation oppose a bill called the SMART Copyright Act, which could have forced projects like Wikipedia to use certain technical tools to monitor and manage copyright infringement. Kate sent a letter with our concerns about the bill to lawmakers, and supported Fight for the Future in amplifying their petition against the Act. She also submitted comments to the US Copyright Office ahead of proceedings evaluating standard technical measures (STMs) for protecting copyrighted works online, participated in a plenary session held by the Copyright Office inquiring into what the government’s role might be in identifying STMs, and participated in a panel hosted by the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) to discuss patents in the public interest.
  4. Expressing concern about the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA): Kate led the Foundation to sign onto a coalition letter expressing strong concerns about the JCPA, which would require large online platforms to negotiate with groups of news organizations to pay them for access to their content. Kate’s work was picked up by Wikimedia Small Projects, which invited her to an episode of the SuenaWiki podcast to discuss the challenges posed by the JCPA.
  5. Asking the US Supreme Court to take our lawsuit against mass surveillance: Kate spearheaded the Foundation’s policy advocacy efforts to rein in mass surveillance by the US government. On the heels of the Foundation’s petition to the US Supreme Court to review our challenge to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance of Americans’ private online communications with people overseas, she led the beginning stages of our work advocating for positive changes to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and raised awareness of the issue within the Wikimedia community by presenting the case at WikiConference North America. This work builds on the Foundation’s partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Knight First Amendment Institute to argue that the government cannot use sweeping claims of “state secrets” to block court oversight of Section 702 surveillance programs.

Deepening Our Work with Affiliates

Big Fat Brussels Meeting: The eighth Big Fat Brussels Meeting was held from 2–3 December, 2022, in Brussels. The event brought together Wikimedia affiliates from across Europe to collectively decide what the public policy priorities are for the free knowledge movement in the region throughout 2023. 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 Global Advocacy team. This blog post recaps what was discussed.

Protecting the Wikimedia Model

Friend-of-the-court brief on Gonzalez v. Google: The Foundation’s ability to host Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects hangs in the balance in a case against YouTube brought to the Supreme Court: Gonzalez v. Google. We filed an amicus brief because the Supreme Court will consider Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—i.e., a key law that supports internet hosting and protects website hosts from being sued for content submitted by users—for the first time in decades. We explained that despite the tragic background of the case, siding with Gonzalez would create significant problems for the future of the internet. Read our major arguments and why ruling against Gonzalez will help to protect the ability of Wikimedia users to share free knowledge—not just in the United States, but around the world—in our blog post.

Jimmy Wales on BBC for Online Safety Bill (OSB): The founder of Wikimedia, Jimmy Wales, joined a panel on one of the UK’s most popular news shows to talk about the country’s OSB. He spoke alongside members of the House of Lords and others. The Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg program, which aired on 4 December, is available on YouTube—where it is titled Who Should Keep Us Safe Online?

Protecting Wikimedia’s Values

Human Rights Update: On 20 December, the Global Advocacy team published an update for the community on Diff. The blog post discussed the real and evolving human rights threats facing Wikimedians, actions that the Foundation has taken over the past year to implement the Human Rights Policy, what the Foundation hopes to accomplish in the coming year to continue protecting the community’s human rights, and how Wikimedians can help to do so.


Follow us on Twitter, visit our Meta-Wiki webpage, or join our Wikipedia policy mailing list for updates. We hope to see you there!

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