Welcome to “Don’t Blink”! 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 last month, here are the most important public policy advocacy topics that have kept the Wikimedia Foundation busy.
The Global Advocacy team works to advocate laws and government policies that protect the volunteer community-led Wikimedia model, Wikimedia’s people, and the Wikimedia 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 X (formerly Twitter) (@WikimediaPolicy), and sign up to our Wikimedia public policy mailing list or (NEW! COMING SOON!) quarterly newsletter.
Protecting the Wikimedia model
(Work related to access to knowledge and freedom of expression
[Watch and read Wikimedia Foundation CEO Maryana Iskander’s speech calling on governments to protect and support Wikimedians]
At a high-level side event during the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York last month, September 2023, Maryana Iskander, CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation, called on governments to protect and support volunteers who freely share verified, neutral knowledge on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects in over 300 languages.
Maryana delivered her remarks at an event titled “Advancing the 2030 Agenda through Inclusive and Rights-Respecting Digital Policy.” The meeting was organized by the US as the 2023 Chair of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), a partnership of 38 governments “working to advance Internet freedom.” The thematic focus of the discussion was connectivity, access and inclusion, and technology as an enabler of rights to advance UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Speakers included ministers and other senior officials from the FOC and G77 governments, as well as high-level representatives of international organizations, companies, and civil society organizations.
The Wikimedia Foundation was one of two non-governmental organizations contributing to the conversation with foreign ministers and policymakers about the importance of increasing digital access and knowledge. The meeting also helped to highlight how self-governing communities like those of the Wikimedia projects, which work to collect educational content and knowledge, can help advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Watch and read Maryana’s speech online. You can also watch the full event video and read the text of all speeches at the FOC website.
UK Online Safety Act is now law
[Read our Foundation public statement and recent blog post on the Act and our concerns]
During September 2023, the UK Online Safety Bill cleared all final parliamentary hurdles. After Royal Assent it has now become law: the Online Safety Act. While we are disappointed that Wikipedia and other public interest platforms were not exempted in the final version of the bill, this is not the end of the road.
In the UK, a law’s enforcement depends on secondary legislation and frameworks implemented by an independent regulator—which, in this case, will be the Office of Communications (Ofcom). Thanks to the sustained collaborative efforts of Wikimedia UK and several Foundation teams, the Act’s harmful implications for Wikipedia received prominent coverage in news media and were acknowledged at length and by various political parties in parliamentary debates. We are hopeful that all the attention will result in Ofcom deciding not to apply the Act’s most harmful provisions—like age-gating and interference in volunteer processes—to Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. Read more about the Act and our concerns in the Foundation’s public statement and our most recent blog post on the matter.
Wikimedia Foundation now supports Wikimedia communities with grants that include funding for public policy advocacy
[Read our list of tips to apply for funding to advocate public policy for the Wikimedia movement]
The Wikimedia General Support Fund (part of the Wikimedia Community Fund) offers support to Wikimedia affiliates, individuals, and organizations focused on the public interest contributions to free and open knowledge of the Wikimedia movement. We are happy to announce that Wikimedians can now apply to the General Support Fund with “public policy advocacy” as a thematic priority. This option will help Wikimedia communities and volunteers to push for legislation and regulations that support their unique visions of what the free and open knowledge movement should look like in their respective countries.
For purposes of these applications, “public policy advocacy” is defined as “work to shape a legal environment, including national and international law, trade agreements, human rights frameworks, and other regulations and norms set by governments and lawmakers. If the end-goal is to influence the regulatory ecosystem in which our movement exists, then it counts as public policy advocacy.” The Global Advocacy team has created a Meta-Wiki webpage with tips for applications, which are based on lessons we have learned through our support and feedback from the Wikimedia communities.
Please know that applicants are currently submitting grant requests. Ziski Putz, Senior Movement Advocacy Manager, will work with the Community Resources team to ensure applicants are aware that they can receive funding for public policy advocacy and are supported in the application process.
Protecting Wikimedia’s people
(Work related to privacy and countering surveillance)
Call to reform US Section 702 and protect Wikimedia project users
[Read our blog post and call to action to US Congress]
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is a crucial law on which the US Government bases part of its surveillance of the communications of foreign nationals. It is the legislation that the National Security Agency (NSA) relies on to conduct Upstream surveillance, the subject of our yearslong lawsuit against the agency. This year, the US Congress can choose to reauthorize Section 230. In order to protect the right of Wikimedia project users to access and share free and open knowledge privately and without fear of retaliation, we have called for the enactment of comprehensive and substantial reforms, including some that prevent the government from evading privacy protections under the US Constitution. Read our blog post for more details on our position and call to action to US lawmakers.
Announcements from our team
NEW! COMING SOON! A quarterly newsletter about the Foundation’s public policy advocacy!
[Subscribe to our newsletter so that you can be sure to receive the first issue, and keep up-to-date with our work over email]
In today’s age of disinformation and generative AI, the world needs Wikimedia’s free knowledge projects more than ever. To thrive economically, socially, and culturally—and to exercise all other fundamental human rights—people need well-sourced knowledge that is available in their own languages. The Wikimedia Foundation’s Global Advocacy team is collaborating with Wikimedians around the globe to educate policymakers about how they can protect Wikimedia’s model, platforms, and people.
We are launching a new email newsletter that will serve as a bridge between active Wikimedians and policymakers, digital policy experts, journalists, and others who want to learn more about how government policies and laws that aim to address online threats can also protect and support everyone, everywhere, who wants to participate in the sum of all human knowledge.
‘Don’t Blink’ will continue to be published on Diff, bringing you the most important updates on matters that concern the Wikimedia communities. The quarterly newsletter will inform a broader public policy audience on the most important advocacy moments and issues that we have faced over the past three months. We will also forecast issues to look out for on the horizon, and preview upcoming events that our readers might want to attend and/or watch.
Sign up to our newsletter and stay on top of everything you need to help us protect the Wikimedia model, its people, and its values!
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