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.
The Global Advocacy team works to advocate for laws and policies that protect the Wikimedia movement’s open, volunteer community-led model, Wikimedia’s people, and the movement’s core values. To learn more about us and the work we do with the rest of the Foundation, visit our Meta-Wiki webpage, follow us on Twitter (@WikimediaPolicy), or sign up to our Wikimedia public policy mailing list.
Protecting the Wikimedia Model
Pakistan Takedown Request and Block: The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) ordered the Foundation to take down Wikipedia content that the government deemed to be “unlawful.” On 1 February, Wikipedia was “degraded” (i.e., throttled) countrywide for 48 hours before being completely blocked in Pakistan from 3 to 6 February. The Pakistani prime minister ordered that the block be removed on 6 February following an outpouring of vocal support from civil society, including the Digital Rights Foundation, an op-ed from Pakistani civil society organization Bolo Bhi, a statement from the National Commission for Human Rights of Pakistan, and a joint statement from 86 technology and civil society organizations. With the restoration of access to Wikipedia, the people of Pakistan could continue to benefit from and participate in its growth within a global movement that strives to spread and share knowledge that is neutral, reliable and verified, and free.
UK State of Open Conference 2023: Members of the Foundation, Wikimedia UK, and Jimmy Wales attended the State of Open 2023 (SOOCon23) conference in London, UK, from 7 to 8 February. SOOCon23 convened communities in the UK working on open source software, open hardware, and open data. Jimmy Wales was the keynote speaker of the conference and discussed “Online Safety and How to Protect Our Open Movement.” Jimmy was interviewed by the Open Data Institute (ODI) as well. Our Movement Advocacy Manager, Ziski Putz, spoke on the ODI opening panel, which was titled “Power & Diplomacy: When Open Data and Real Politik Collide.”
UNESCO Internet for Democracy Conference: The UNESCO Internet for Trust Conference was held in Paris, France, from 21 to 23 February. Partners from around the world convened their constituencies to discuss how issues of regulation of digital platforms should (or should not) be regulated in sessions held at UNESCO headquarters. Amalia Toledo, Lead Public Policy Specialist for Latin America and the Caribbean, attended the conference and participated in several panels. These included “Transparency, content moderation, and freedom of expression: Multi-actor perspectives in Latin America” (in Spanish) and “User empowerment and complaints mechanisms.” The conference discussions were part of UNESCO’s broader public consultation effort to design a set of draft global guidelines for the regulation of internet platforms.
Launch of Copyright Advocacy Mapping: The Global Advocacy team is engaging in a mapping exercise to learn what affiliates have done or are doing to advocate copyright reforms. We want the movement to have access to and learn from the work that others have done to campaign for such reforms. We will share all of the insights that we collect publicly. These will include: a centralized archive of campaign materials that participants share; a contact list of who has worked on what topics; and, a summary report that provides an overview of the copyright public policy issues and actions that affiliates have taken. If you have worked on a copyright advocacy initiative, please get in touch by emailing Valentina Vera-Quiroz, our Human Rights, Policy, and Tech Fellow (firstname.lastname@example.org) and CC Ziski Putz (email@example.com), our Movement Advocacy Manager.
Section 230 Engagement: Section 230, a key provision of the United States’ Telecommunications Act of 1996, is one of the most important laws in internet history: it essentially protects online platforms from lawsuits based on user-generated content that they host, hence promoting a wide variety of user viewpoints and speech without fear of being shut down for supporting freedom of speech and expression. Without Section 230, US-based internet platforms would have strong incentives to overcensor and suppress any speech that might open them up to lawsuits jeopardizing their continued existence.
In the wake of the arguments in the Gonzalez v. Google lawsuit, which challenges key aspects of internet platforms’ liability protections under Section 230 (you can read more about the case, pending at the Supreme Court of the US, and its implications in our January blog post), the Foundation is engaging in multiple education and advocacy efforts. During February:
- We submitted responses for Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society newsletter about our friend-of-the-court brief, and this blog post includes our responses in complete detail;
- Leighanna Mixter, our Senior Legal Manager, and Jacob Rogers, our Associate General Counsel, discussed how the Supreme Court’s ruling may affect our ability to host free knowledge projects in an interview with Gizmodo;
- Jacob also participated in a Twitter Spaces chat alongside Reddit. You can listen to the recording of his interview here.
Protecting Wikimedia’s People
Wikimedia v. NSA Lawsuit Ends: On 21 February, the Supreme Court of the United States denied the Foundation’s petition for review of its legal challenge to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance of internet communications and activities. This brought an end to litigation that we initiated with eight other plaintiffs in 2015 to protect the rights of Wikipedia readers, editors, and internet users globally. Under the surveillance program we sought to challenge, “Upstream,” the NSA continues to systematically search the contents of internet traffic entering and leaving the US, including US citizens’ private emails, messages, and web communications. This government surveillance has a measurable chilling effect on Wikipedia users, with research documenting a drop in traffic to Wikipedia articles on sensitive topics following public revelations about the NSA’s mass surveillance in 2013.
The Foundation joined the ACLU and Knight Institute to put out a joint press release on the decision. Jim Buatti, our Legal Director, said: “This denial represents a big hit to both privacy and freedom of expression. While it marks the end of our suit against the NSA, it does not mark the end of the Foundation’s advocacy work to protect free knowledge worldwide.”
Movement for a Better Internet Open Houses: The Movement for a Better Internet is a coalition of nonprofits, activists, and advocates working together to build an internet guided by public interest values. In early February, the organizing partners of the Movement, which include the Wikimedia Foundation, held its inaugural open house events. These meetings facilitated networking, communication, and collaboration between the coalition’s organizations, advocates, and academics. Attendees discussed values, visions, and current and future challenges that will inform the work moving forward. If you are interested in more information, follow the Movement on Twitter (@ForABetterNet), visit their website, or join their mailing list.
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