Access to knowledge is a fundamental human right. As the nonprofit that hosts Wikipedia with a global mission for the free sharing of knowledge, the Wikimedia Foundation is deeply concerned about the ongoing impact of the current Israel-Palestine Crisis. We support and stand with Wikimedia communities in the region. Today, the Wikimedia Foundation is providing an update to volunteers on a range of current activities in relation to the crisis.
Since 7 October, we have been closely monitoring the escalating war. In times of conflict, reliable access to current and balanced information can be life-altering. This is most visible in the work of Wikimedia projects, driven by volunteer communities around the world who are working tirelessly to ensure that coverage of the crisis is accurately reflected on Wikipedia, and providing vital information for those who are seeking it.
Wikipedia’s articles related to the conflict have received millions of pageviews from around the world. Those articles (in multiple languages) cover many layers of the conflict, including its history and current events as they unfold. Nearly 1,000 volunteers have contributed to the main article on the crisis on English Wikipedia alone; that article is now available in 75 languages. In their work to cover the crisis, these contributors have followed Wikipedia’s editorial policies, including presenting information “fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias.” They have also ensured that all information is backed by a reliable source, according to Wikipedia’s verifiability standards. The main article on English Wikipedia has over 800 citations.
Beyond our core responsibilities to support the Wikimedia projects, the Foundation has also focused on ongoing communications and uninterrupted internet access in Gaza. There have been widespread disruptions to communication and internet systems within Gaza, including complete shutdowns and power outages, as well as disruption or destruction to educational and learning institutions in Gaza and Israel. The Wikimedia Foundation recently joined the #KeepItOn coalition to support actions against internet shutdowns. Additionally, we have engaged regularly with the Freedom Online Coalition about diplomatic actions that governments can take to maintain internet access in Gaza. We’ve also shared data with the Coalition and other partners on usage of Wikipedia in the region.
The Wikimedia Foundation’s Human Rights team leads an active cross-organization Working Group with expertise from teams in Legal, Disinformation, Global Advocacy, Technology, Communications, and others. The group’s focus is on the safety of staff and volunteers, especially those most directly impacted. It continues to offer support to those who may need it through:
- Ongoing outreach to volunteer administrators and community members of the Arabic and Hebrew Wikipedia projects, offering support, conducting safety check-ins, and ensuring them of our availability to assist through the Human Rights and Trust and Safety Teams with issues where they can support.
- Creating, publishing, and sharing this comprehensive guide with resources on how community members can stay connected during internet outages.
- Actively participating in the Global Network Initiative, which recently released a statement calling for an end to internet restrictions in Gaza.
- Coordinating the Foundation’s Disinformation Team and Trust and Safety Team to respond to reports related to the conflict from volunteers, staff, or partner organizations. This group also monitors pages related to the crisis, particularly in English, Arabic, Hebrew, and Farsi, to protect against any coordinated efforts to manipulate content.
- Conducting thorough human rights due diligence on the physical safety of staff and volunteers, risk of coordinated disinformation campaigns, and cyber attacks as key risks for the Foundation.
- Collaborating with academic researchers to enhance our understanding and visibility of potential malicious activities on Wikimedia projects.
- Exploring ways to support the community in identifying reliable sources to update content on Wikimedia projects.
- Maintaining an open channel (monitored by staff 24/7) for volunteers to raise human rights concerns or request support.
This crisis has personally impacted many members of the Wikimedia movement, especially those who are in Gaza and Israel, or who have deep connections there. As we strive to support our people and projects in navigating such turbulent times together, it is clear that the role of reliable knowledge through Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects is more important than ever.
Wikimedians who require assistance, or have suggestions for additional ways that the working group can provide support, are invited to contact the Human Rights team.
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