Contributing to build “an open, free, and secure digital future for all” through the Global Digital Compact

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An illustration of the world symbol for Wikipedia, drawn with white on a black background.
World symbol for Wikipedia. Image by Jasmina El Bouamraoui and Karabo Poppy Moletsane — Wikimedia Foundation, adapted by Bianca Flores, CC0 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rapid technological changes and shifting power balances are decisively shaping our digital world. There is an uptick of new internet regulations in multiple and diverse legal environments seeking to address this. Wikimedians, who collaborate with each other based on languages, not geographies, create and share free knowledge online to ensure that the sum of all human knowledge is accessible to everyone, everywhere. As a result, their volunteer work can be seriously affected by multiple laws and regulations, even those set by governments of countries where they do not live.

For these reasons, Wikimedians are increasingly interested in public policy advocacy. They understand that some policies are well-crafted and effective, while others risk exacerbating inequalities and threatening people and their rights. Volunteers are educating policymakers and legislators about our community-led model so that they will avoid drafting laws that harm Wikimedia’s projects and people. Other volunteers focus on copyright, understanding that helpful reform in one country can contribute to knowledge equity worldwide. Some take action to defend human rights, knowing that it helps protect other Wikimedians working in difficult conditions, often at great personal risk. And others campaign for better and more secure online spaces, especially for children, well-informed that sacrificing data privacy and protection is not necessary to offer reasonable safety.

In this blog post, we explain a promising opportunity for the Wikimedia Foundation and communities to build the foundations of our digital future together with other like-minded parties across the world: the Global Digital Compact. We also explain and share our written contribution as well as public statements we made to outline our understanding and recommendation on the policy topics that are most important to the Wikimedia mission and to the wider free and open knowledge movement. We hope that the resources that we explain and share below will be useful to Wikimedia chapters and affiliates around the world, in addition to government policymakers as well as non-governmental allies, committed to protecting and supporting free knowledge communities.

What is the Global Digital Compact?

“An open, free, and secure digital future for all” is the purpose of the Global Digital Compact: a series of shared principles being developed through a consultation process open to all stakeholders: governments, the UN system, the private sector (including technology companies), civil society, grassroots organizations, academia, and individuals, including youth. Establishing this international framework will help structure the future of digital cooperation and regulation for many countries around the world.

The Wikimedia Foundation contributed to the process to make sure that the views of the Wikimedia communities, as well as others who care about free and open knowledge, would be considered throughout the deliberations shaping the Global Digital Compact ahead of the Summit of the Future—which will be held in September 2024, when UN member states will agree and vote on the shared principles.

We consider this a transparent, accountable, and meaningful opportunity to promote a positive, global vision of the internet that protects our model, fights against false and misleading information, upholds human rights, and enables our mission: to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.

What the Foundation recommended in our contribution

For these reasons, the Foundation submitted its contribution to the consultation process in April 2023. You can find it on the Global Digital Compact website, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, and included in the resources that the Global Advocacy team shares on its Meta-Wiki webpage. The contribution collects our understanding and recommendations on various policy topics that are essential for the health of our movement and to realize the vision of the internet our community is working towards.

Among the topics proposed by the UN, we offered input on:

  • Avoiding internet fragmentation: We outlined how an open, interoperable, resilient, and secure internet is essential for Wikimedia projects, which are hosted and run globally so that everyone, everywhere, can participate in the sum of all knowledge. We warned that laws intending to split the internet or create differences in access to the internet harm the projects and make it impossible to realize our vision;
  • Protecting data: We highlighted how protecting personal data is critical for safeguarding the human rights of Wikimedians. Mass surveillance can harm our volunteers and communities, thereby preventing minorities, historically marginalized communities, and vulnerable people from engaging with our movement;
  • Applying human rights online: We stressed the importance of protecting human rights online, be it freedom of expression or the right to privacy, and how doing so contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • Accountability for discrimination and misleading content: We explained how Wikimedia’s free and open knowledge projects can be an antidote to disinformation. The daily work of our community of volunteers on projects like Wikipedia positively influences the entire information ecosystem;
  • Digital commons as a global public good: We noted that the Wikimedia projects provide everyone everywhere with vital information, serving as a digital commons that benefits the public interest globally. We explained the need for laws that protect everyone’s right to share and access information. Laws should focus on overcoming barriers to access, which often mirror and amplify existing inequities instead of creating social good and promoting social equity.

The Foundation believed it important to offer input on two additional topics that are of great importance for our model:

  • Liability protections for community-led platforms: We emphasized that regulations holding internet platforms and services legally responsible for content created or edited by users can inadvertently risk harming community-led models of information sharing and content moderation like Wikipedia. We explained that because our model is scalable, replicable, and works on collaboratively-built trust, it can effectively respond to online dangers that concern us all;
  • Modern and flexible copyright: We underlined that copyright regimes must properly balance the interests of the human rights to free expression and to education with the enforcement of intellectual property rights of private companies and individuals, so that the content on Wikimedia projects can be created, accessed, remixed, reused, and shared in the public interest worldwide.

What the Foundation and Wikimedia affiliates said in our statements

In addition to our written input, the Foundation and Wikimedia affiliates participated in informal consultations and a series of deep-dive consultations that UN member states organized. Throughout February–June 2023, we prepared and delivered statements on:

  • The Global Digital Compact as such;

Also, on the following themes:

  • Human rights online;
  • Artificial Intelligence and other emerging technologies;
  • Digital trust and safety;
  • Global digital commons;
  • Accelerating progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We collected those statements in a document, which you can find uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and included in the resources section of our Meta-Wiki webpage. We offer them to other interested stakeholders, including Wikimedia volunteer communities, to help explain how we used our contribution to structure our statements. We also hope that they can serve as a useful example of how to prepare contributions to UN and national government consultation processes. We look forward to supporting our Wikimedia communities and allies around the world who want to provide input into national and regional-level consultations about the Global Digital Compact and related intergovernmental frameworks.

Next steps—and reach out to us!

In the following months, and up to the Summit of the Future in September next year, when the Global Digital Compact will be presented, we will continue to work with our community, allies, and the international community to shape this international framework and make sure that it reflects the important work of our movement, and ensure that it protects the safety and human rights of our volunteers.

If you’re interested in knowing more, and/or if you have ideas to engage with this process, please reach out to us at

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