“Don’t Blink”: Protecting the Wikimedia model, its people, and its values in October 2023

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An image collage for the October 2023 issue of ‘Don’t Blink,’ featuring: a surveillance camera; a crowd of people advocating for copyright reform; a panel of speakers at the 2023 IGF; an elderly participant in an anti-disinformation workshop; the Global Advocacy team logo silhouetting a background of outer space; and, a large screen showing a panelist at the 2023 IGF

Image collage for the October 2023 issue of ‘Don’t Blink.’ Image by the Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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 quarterly newsletter


Protecting Wikimedia’s values
(Work related to human rights and countering disinformation)

Introducing a repository of Wikimedians’ anti-disinformation projects
[Read our blog post and explore the repository on Meta-Wiki]

During August 2022, the Foundation launched a public mapping project to collect anti-disinformation initiatives and tools developed at the local level across Wikimedia projects. We have now published a repository with almost 70 projects, a collection of the work that volunteers do every day to promote trustworthy information and counter disinformation. We are confident that it can help Wikimedians everywhere to curb false and misleading information, increase fact-checking and media literacy, and prevent harm against our projects and the world.

The activities, projects, and expertise of Wikimedians deserves to be more widely known and publicized, especially because their anti-disinformation work takes so many shapes. Some Wikimedians work with their community to share information about reliable sources, provide media literacy trainings, and develop subject-specific WikiProjects. Others help create and maintain bots which use machine learning software to detect harassment, judge the quality or articles, or identify bad sources. This varied work ensures accurate information is accessible and accurate on complex topics like COVID-19 or climate change.

You can read more about the anti-disinformation work that Wikimedians do, and how we developed the repository with their help in our Diff blog post. You will also find details there on how you can reach out to us and share other projects that you have developed or that you know about. You can explore the first version of the repository on Meta-Wiki, which is a preliminary list that we hope to expand—as mentioned above—by collecting more work related to the topic with your help. Our intention is to share an even more comprehensive repository beyond the Wikimedia communities, so interested parties around the world can understand why Wikimedia projects are an antidote against disinformation!

Protecting the Wikimedia model
(Work related to access to knowledge and freedom of expression)

Sharing a repository of Wikimedians’ copyright reform advocacy campaign materials and actions
[Read our blog post on the project and explore the repository on Meta-Wiki]

Wikimedians have been advocating copyright legislation that supports free knowledge since the beginning of the Wikimedia projects. Wishing to strengthen their efforts and help with sharing resources, we launched a public mapping project in March 2023 to collect the public policy advocacy initiatives that Wikimedia affiliates and individual volunteers have pursued in order to preserve or change copyright policies. With the help of 30 Wikimedians who we interviewed between March to July 2023, we have now finished the project. You can read about its methods, key findings, and recommendations in our blog post.

Since the core objective of the project was to share resources back with the Wikimedia communities, we compiled all the resources participants created as part of their advocacy efforts, including campaign materials and step-by-step summaries of their actions. These materials are centralized into a repository that we structured as a sortable table on the Global Advocacy team’s Meta-Wiki webpage.

We want to make sure to continue the conversation on how we can carry out public policy advocacy together, so read the blog post for details on how to join our Let’s Connect! workshops on copyright advocacy, and how to share your ideas with us and stay up-to-date with our work. Collectively, we can work toward modern and flexible copyright laws to make sure that everyone, everywhere, can access and share free knowledge!

Attending the 2023 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 
[Read the takeaways from our IGF sessions on the future of digital democracy and human rights online]

The United Nations (UN) Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is an annual multistakeholder meeting and an important gathering of stakeholders from civil society, industry, and government who discuss public policy issues related to the internet. Members of the Global Advocacy team attended the 2023 IGF annual meeting in early October, which was held in Kyoto, Japan.

Doing so allowed us to educate policymakers and policy influencers about how Wikimedia’s model serves the public interest as well as why international and national laws and regulations need to protect our people, values, and projects. We hosted an information booth throughout the entire week, and launched the Taskforce on Trustworthy Information along with the Government of Denmark as part of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC). We spoke in sessions about internet commons, digital knowledge commons, and digital authoritarianism in the Asia-Pacific region. We participated in a workshop on stakeholder engagement, and hosted a very well-attended session on digital democracy and future realities. Cameran Ashraf from the Human Rights team at the Wikimedia Foundation joined remotely to speak at the event’s main session on human rights.

These various efforts allowed us to present Wikimedia’s priorities and perspectives on digital rights and emerging topics like Artificial Intelligence and machine learning with high-level policymakers and allied organizations and groups. We were also able to meet with members from the Japanese community of Wikimedians! You can read our key takeaways from the team’s session as well as from Cameran’s session on X (formerly Twitter), and as well as our blog post announcing our attendance to IGF in advance of the annual meeting.

Comments to US Copyright Office on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and copyright
our recommendations on generative AI systems, their relation to copyright, and more]

The US Copyright Office recently engaged in a study of the copyright law and policy issues raised by generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems. In order to help assess whether legislative or regulatory steps in this area are warranted and, if so, which ones, the Office requested comment on these issues—including questions about the use of copyrighted works to train AI models, the appropriate levels of transparency and disclosure needed in relation to the use of copyrighted works, and the legal status of AI-generated outputs.

We decided to submit comments to the Copyright Office because the Wikimedia Foundation is in the unique position of being both ​​the host of a primary source of training material for generative AI, and a user of many AI and machine learning (ML) tools that aid human editors with the creation of free knowledge . The Wikimedia projects, which have been freely licensed and built on open source software since their inception, are currently the world’s largest repository of Creative Commons licensed material. In addition, they are routinely used to train the large language models (LLMs) that generative AI systems like ChatGPT are built on. At the same time, freely licensed technology, including various ML tools, help to support the quality of the Wikimedia projects and assist volunteer editors in working more effectively and efficiently to create, share, and moderate reliable free knowledge. 

In our comments, we note that existing copyright law is capable of balancing the interests of both creators and users of copyrighted content, but that AI developers should do more to provide attribution when they use freely licensed content. We have noted that any regulation directed at AI must account for the many varied and evolving uses of this technology, which includes everything from LLMs to quality-control tools for volunteer editors on Wikimedia projects. For more details about our submission, explore our comments, which are publicly available on Wikimedia Commons.

Protecting Wikimedia’s people
(Work related to privacy and countering surveillance)

An update to our call to reform US Section 702 and protect Wikimedia project users
[Read the
update to our blog post and call to action to US Congress]

This year, the US Congress is set to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a crucial law on which the US Government bases part of its surveillance of the communications of foreign nationals. The NSA relies on this legislation to conduct Upstream surveillance, the subject of our multiyear lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA). We have called on the US Congress to enact comprehensive and substantial reforms that can protect the right of Wikimedia project users to access and share free and open knowledge privately and without fear of retaliation.

Recently, a bipartisan effort introduced a strong legislative reform proposal in the Government Surveillance Reform Act (GSRA). The GSRA addresses a wide range of concerns about US surveillance practices, and we are especially pleased that it includes provisions to improve Americans’ ability to challenge unlawful surveillance in court. However, following the dismissal of our case against the NSA based on the “state secrets” privilege, there is still more to be done to protect the privacy and free expression rights of both US citizens as well as citizens of other countries who are not located within the US. Specifically, in addition to the reforms proposed by the GSRA, the statute should be amended to significantly narrow the scope of reasons for which a person might become a target of surveillance. For more details on what other reforms are needed, read the update to our blog post and its call to effectively protect Wikimedians and their contributions to free knowledge everywhere. 

Announcements from our team

Introducing a quarterly newsletter about the Foundation’s public policy advocacy!
[Read the first issue and subscribe to the next newsletter so that you can keep up-to-date with our work over email]

As we explained last month, in an age of disinformation and generative AI, the world needs the Wikimedia free knowledge projects more than ever. People need well-sourced knowledge that is available in their own languages in order to flourish economically, socially, and culturally—and also to exercise all other fundamental human rights. Our Global Advocacy team at the Wikimedia Foundation is collaborating with Wikimedians worldwide to educate policymakers about how they can protect Wikimedia’s model, platforms, and people. 

We launched our new email newsletter to serve as a bridge between Wikimedians and policymakers, journalists, digital policy experts, and others who want to learn more about how government policies and laws that try to reduce online threats can help to protect and support everyone, everywhere, who wants to participate in the sum of all human knowledge.

We will continue to publish ‘Don’t Blink’ on Diff, so we can share the most important updates on matters that concern the Wikimedia communities with you. Our quarterly newsletter informs a broader public policy audience on the most crucial advocacy moments and issues that we have addressed every three months. We will also alert you to issues that are on the horizon, and note future events that our readers might want to watch and/or attend.

Read the first issue of the newsletter and sign up for it so that you continue to be on top of everything you need to know in order to help us protect the Wikimedia model, its people, and its values!


Follow us on X (formerly Twitter), visit our Meta-Wiki webpage, join our Wikipedia policy mailing list, and sign up for our quarterly newsletter to receive updates. We hope to see you there!

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