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 Wikimedia’s People
United Nations (UN) 67th Annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Session: The 67th annual session of the CSW was held from 6 to 17 March at the UN New York headquarters, allowing representatives of UN member states, civil society organizations, and UN bodies gathered to discuss and agree on further actions to accelerate progress and promote women’s political, economic, and social rights. Members of our team were able to attend this official UN conference thanks to our newly-acquired membership in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), enabling us to gain insight into CSW processes, engage with key stakeholders, and participate in critical discussions around digital rights. In our conversations we were able to showcase how the Wikimedia model helps communities address critical knowledge gaps, and we also highlighted the urgency of privacy and online protections for women and young people. Watch the CSW side event, titled “Shut Down, Spied On, and Stalked: The State of Digital Rights and Gender Identity,” where we discussed these issues with Access Now, Google Public Policy and Government Affairs, and Wikimedians Sandra Aceng from Wikimedia Community User Group Uganda and Kira Wisniewski from Art+Feminism.
United States (US) Congressional Staff Briefing on FISA Section 702: The US Supreme Court may have declined to hear our lawsuit against the NSA, but we are still fighting against the abuse of surveillance powers by US intelligence agencies. A congressional vote on the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)—the key provision that allows the government to conduct surveillance of foreign people located outside of the country and collect and analyze their data—is due at the end of this year, 2023. On 15 March, the Foundation, Demand Progress, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hosted a virtual briefing on Section 702 for US House and Senate staffers. The purpose was to educate them on the civil society’s perspective on the issue, and emphasize the need for crucial legislative reforms to Section 702 before the reauthorization vote. The briefing featured opening remarks from Zoe Lofgren, Democrat congresswoman for California, and Bob Goodlatte, former Republican congressman for Virginia, as a panelist. They were accompanied by lawyers from the ACLU, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), Brennan Center for Justice, and Demand Progress. Aly Marino, our Tech Law & Policy Fellow, gave a presentation on the chilling effects that mass government surveillance has on individuals’ speech and search activity online, as well as the plummeting support among US voters for continued warrantless surveillance of people overseas and their communications. You can watch a recording of the event here.
Protecting the Wikimedia Model
ReCreate South Africa’s “Right to Research” Conference: ReCreate South Africa, a nonprofit that exists to advocate on behalf of South African creatives regarding copyright legislation, held the Right to Research (R2R) conference from 23 to 27 January in Pretoria and Cape Town The conference brought together diverse allied organizations, who discussed how South Africa’s copyright regime impacts all parts of society. Ziski Putz (Senior Movement Advocacy Manager) and Giovanna Fontenelle (Program Officer, Culture and Heritage) published a Diff blog post on the R2R conference, where they explain why and how promoting copyright reform in a specific country can help promote knowledge equity worldwide.
Wikilegal Article on Copyright and ChatGPT: ChatGPT is a natural language processing tool driven by artificial intelligence technology, which has captivated public attention worldwide both for its detailed responses and efficiency at complex tasks as well as its recurrent lack of factual accuracy. On 22 March, Valentina Vera-Quiroz, our Human Rights, Tech, and Policy Fellow, published a copyright analysis of ChatGPT article on Wikilegal, where she explains how ChatGPT and similar tools interact with copyright and free culture licenses. Valentina focused on the way in which AI-generated images and text can impact Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, in relation to copyright. The article serves to support Wikimedians and the wider open knowledge community, who are concerned about the complications that emerging technologies may bring to copyright issues.
ICYMI—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 Wikimedia 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 (email@example.com) and CC Ziski Putz (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Constitutional Court of Colombia Ruling Protects Wikipedia Model: The Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled that a complaint about biographical content on Wikipedia should work through the platform’s community processes first. On 1 March, Jacob Rogers (Associate General Counsel), Kabir Choudhary (Senior Counsel), and Amalia Toledo (Lead Public Policy Specialist for Latin America and the Caribbean) published a blog post on the significance of the ruling and the procedural history of the case. The post follows a previous one from August 2022, when the Foundation asked the Court to review the case in order to establish a strong legal precedent protecting free knowledge.
Accreditation Request to World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO): WIPO is the UN agency responsible for shaping the future of global policy on intellectual property rules and policies. On 14 March, the Foundation applied for accreditation to the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) in order to offer our insight into the laws and policies that regulate accessing, remixing, and sharing information online to the SCCR. The accreditation was blocked by China, making it the fourth time that country has raised objections to our participation in WIPO. For more information, read our public statement. We will apply for official observer status again at the coming WIPO General Assembly meeting in July 2023.
Comments on Second Draft of UNESCO Guidelines for Regulating Digital Platforms: UNESCO is leading a public consultation effort to design a set of draft global guidelines, which would support regulators, governments, legislatures, and companies dealing with content that potentially damages human rights and democracy to protect freedom of expression and the availability of accurate and reliable information while doing so. The Foundation submitted its comments on the second version of the draft guidelines, where it offered recommendations on how to improve the reliability of online information, protect the right to freedom of expression and other human rights, and promote the Wikimedia community-led content moderation model.
Digital Public Infrastructure in the European Union (EU) post: Dimitar Dimitrov, Policy Director at Wikimedia Europe, published a Medium blog post on 28 March, where he summarized the actions needed to ensure that a significant part of online public discourse takes place on public or not-for-profit platforms, services, and infrastructure. The post outlines three specific public policy approaches, which are related to institutional support, governance, and shared culture and content. Dimi explained that the European Union should: 1) ensure funding for a network of publicly-owned and operated platforms that can host digital cultural heritage and public debates; 2) ensure funding for content moderation handled by cultural institutions, public broadcasters, and not-for-profits, and 3) make government content available and reusable, and ensure funding for digitization to make cultural heritage widely available.
State of the Net: The State of the Net is an annual policy conference, held this year in Washington, DC. On 6 March, Rebecca MacKinnon, our VP of Global Advocacy, spoke on a panel titled “Trust, Safety, and Transparency” about the current state of content moderation, the role of artificial intelligence and algorithms in online content moderation, platform transparency, and the future of third-party content managers and oversight boards. You can watch the video here.
Summit for Democracy: On 29 and 30 March in Washington DC, the US government co-hosted the second Summit for Democracy, which brings together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal, and tackle through collective action the greatest threats faced by democracies. This year’s summit was co-hosted with the governments of Costa Rica, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Zambia. Rebecca MacKinnon and Amalia Toledo attended the Summit as Advisory Network members of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), a coalition of governments dedicated to advancing Internet freedom globally. FOC’s 36 member states, observers, and advisory network of external stakeholders met on the sidelines of the Summit for a strategy and coordination meeting in Washington, DC. By participating in the FOC Advisory Network, members of our team are able to influence diplomatic coordination and policies of member states on issues that have a direct impact on the Wikimedia movement’s projects and people.
Protecting Wikimedia’s Values
Input for UN Special Rapporteur’s Thematic Report on Freedom of Expression: The UN Special Rapporteur (SR) on Freedom of Opinion and Expression to the UN Human Rights Council Foundation shared a call for submissions to their thematic report “Freedom of Opinion and Expression and Sustainable Development – Why Voice Matters.” The SR invited international and regional organizations, civil society, scholars, and other interested individuals to provide input for the report, which will be submitted to the Human Rights Council in the middle of 2023. We submitted a response in which we shared the perspectives of the Foundation and Wikimedia movement on issues that the report should highlight: the critical relevance of freedom of opinion and expression to sustainable development, which are concrete opportunities and challenges of freedom of opinion and expression in the international legal and policy framework, and what progress or gaps exist in their implementation.
International Science Council (ISC) Webinars: The ISC is a nonprofit organization connecting scientific expertise at the global level to provide expertise and advice on issues that concern both science and society. The Foundation and the ISC collaborated to organize two webinars, which served to explain the Wikimedia model and how it contributes to creating trustworthy information. The Foundation aimed to share information about the model with an audience of scientists in order to inspire them to become editors. On 16 March, the first webinar, titled “Managing Knowledge Integrity on Information Platforms” discussed how Wikipedia is a model for safeguarding scientific information online. On 30 March, the second webinar, “Webinar 2: Building Special Projects on Wikipedia: The Covid Case Study” showcased the work of the Wikimedia community to make reliable health and medical information available during the COVID-19 pandemic about the disease.
Digital Diplomacy Series hosted by the Embassy of Italy in the US: The Italian Embassy hosts the Digital Diplomacy Series as an opportunity for an audience of Washington, DC-based diplomatic missions, policy experts, think tanks, and others to discuss technology policy developments. The event featured remarks by Mariangela Zappia, Ambassador of Italy to the United States, and a keynote address by James Rubin, the Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center at the US Department of State. Costanza Sciubba Caniglia, our Anti-Disinformation Strategy Lead, participated in a panel titled “Trust, Truth, and Influence in the Digital Age” on 9 March, and highlighted how the Wikimedia model works as well as its effectiveness as an antidote to disinformation.
UN Human Rights Council Side Event on Disinformation: Numerous UN member states—which include the permanent missions to the UN in Geneva of Poland, the US, Lithuania, Ukraine, and the UK, among others—co-organized a side event to the UN Human Rights Council session. On 16 March, Costanza Sciubba Caniglia represented the Foundation on a panel titled “Countering Disinformation – Not Only a State Role,” where she explained the Wikimedia model, its role in countering disinformation, and its connection with ongoing UN work on disinformation-related policies to an audience of UN diplomatic missions and UN staff.
UN Global Digital Compact consultations: The UN is working on the Global Digital Compact through a multi-stakeholder engagement process. The draft Compact will be presented at the Summit of the Future, to be held in September 2024. The Foundation is contributing to the process: in February, we participated in the open consultations, submitting our input to make sure that our model and values are reflected in legislation in multiple regions. We are working on a written input, which we will submit to the UN by the end of April, and will also participate in the thematic deep-dives that will run from March through June 2023.
C20 India 2023 Side Event on Education and Digitization: Civil 20 (C20) India 2023 is one of the official engagement groups of the Group of 20 (G20) forum. C20 provides a platform for civil society organizations to voice the aspirations of people across the globe to the world leaders in the G20. On 16 March, the C20 working group on Education and Digital Transformation held a virtual event titled “C20 Education Coordinators of Prior G20 Presidency Countries.” Rachel Arinii Judhistari, our Lead Public Policy Specialist for Asia, represented the Foundation and participated as a speaker during the virtual event. Rachel shared recommendations on how C20 India should formulate policy recommendations, what barriers exist, and how these can be resolved. The policy recommendations generated at C20 will be launched at the C20 Summit in July 2023.
Announcements from our Team
Wikimedians Presenting at RightsCon: RightsCon’23 is a conference hosted by Access Now that brings activists, technologists, business leaders, artists, policymakers, journalists, and more together to discuss human rights in the digital age. This year, Wikimedians will host and participate in five sessions, which will be held online and in-person in San José, Costa Rica, from 5–8 June. Previous participations have emphasized the importance of the free knowledge movement in the larger online information ecosystem—information is power and access, or lack thereof, is often used as a tool for control by those in power. Wikimedians’ sessions at RightsCon’23 will illustrate this further, and explain how vital the movement’s work is to broader social justice campaigns. You can read more about the sessions in the full RightsCon program, and you can register to watch them online for free until 2 June.
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