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

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An image collage for the November 2023 issue of 'Don't Blink,' featuring: many hands of different skin colors holding each other together; a “wrong way” sign on Cactus Forest Drive in Saguaro National Park; the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile with traffic speeding by at night in Paris, France; and, a broken BenQ computer keyboard.
Image collage for the November 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 the Wikimedia model
(Work related to access to knowledge and freedom of expression)

Explaining the importance of Section 230 to the diversity of the online information ecosystem—and the Wikimedia projects
[Explore and read our three-part blog post series on Section 230: part 1, part 2, and part 3]

Wikipedia and much of the modern internet could not exist without Section 230, an essential US law that protects internet platforms from lawsuits against the content their users share online and content moderation decisions regarding it. This statute provides legal certainty that empowers Wikimedians who contribute to creating free knowledge on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, and it protects the Foundation’s ability to host the projects.

As US lawmakers and Supreme Court judges consider changing or terminating the law, the Foundation is working to explain how such moves would devastate Wikipedia. We have previously opposed proposed bills like EARN IT because of these unintended consequences.

In light of this increased scrutiny of Section 230, we’ve launched a blog post series to better inform US members of Congress, their staff, and the voters who elect them about: 1) websites and services that depend on the statute and how they do so; 2) legislative and regulatory misunderstandings and assumptions that can significantly backfire and impact the online information ecosystem for the worse; and, 3) constructive alternatives that can help to refocus internet regulation on empowering communities and individuals to transform online spaces for the better.

For more details, explore and read the first installment, the second part, and/or third and last post in our Section 230 series. 

Warning that France’s proposed SREN bill has unintended consequences that will harm Wikipedia
[Read our blog post calling on French legislators to amend the bill]

The French legislature is currently working on a bill that aims at securing and regulating digital space (widely known by its acronym, SREN). The Wikimedia Foundation and affiliates are concerned that, as presently drafted, the bill could threaten our community-led governance and content moderation model. Furthermore, the current draft also seems to contradict the new EU Digital Services Act (DSA).

Several aspects of the SREN bill are problematic, and should be fixed before adopting it as law. These include: 1) Short removal deadlines for content that are impossible to implement on Wikimedia projects; 2) overbroad enforcement powers regarding content removal, which might complicate documenting state-drive propaganda online and other topics of critical importance to the public; 3) provisions which force platforms to collect more data than necessary, contradicting the data minimization principles that the Foundation and Wikimedia projects practice; and, 4) conflicts with  the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that reinstate data retention policies that the European Court of Justice has ruled to be illegal.

Read our blog post for more details, as well as our call to French legislators to amend the SREN bill, and establish carveouts for online encyclopedias and other educational content, in order to better regulate online spaces while ensuring that public interest projects like Wikipedia are protected and can continue to thrive online.

Discussing access to knowledge (A2K) in times of unlimited information online

During the Congresso de Direito de Autor e Interesse Público (CODAIP; in English, “Congress on Authors’ Rights and Public Interest”) held in early November by the Universidade Federal do Paraná in Curitiba, Brazil, Amalia Toledo, our Lead Public Policy Specialist for Latin America and the Caribbean, spoke on a panel titled “A2K (Access to Knowledge) in an Era of Unlimited Info: Breaking Down Technical, Social & Legal Barriers?” The panel aimed to discuss the technical, social, and legal barriers that hinder access to knowledge online as well as what are possible solutions that could eliminate these obstacles.

Discussing and finding solutions for these challenges is important to promote equity, progress, and innovation in society. For instance, the panel examined how employing Artificial intelligence (AI) to promote these objectives can be an effective remedy to overcome the above-mentioned barriers.

Amalia’s intervention in the panel—titled “Solutions to barriers to access to knowledge”—addressed two main issues. First, how sociocultural and sociotechnical barriers are reflected in the significant gender gap that exists on Wikipedia, and the importance of knowledge equity, which drives all of the work done by the Foundation and the Wikimedia communities alike to reduce this gap. Second, how the legal framework that regulates the creation, distribution, and reappropriation of knowledge has privileged a male viewpoint of the ways in which creativity and commerce should intersect, and the effect that these dynamics have on gender equity.

Attending the first European Union-Latin America and Caribbean (EU-LAC) Digital Alliance Policy Dialogue

Earlier this year in July, leaders from the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) regions and the European Union (EU) signed the Joint Declaration on a Digital Alliance, a roadmap for an interregional cooperation on a human-centered, sustainable, and inclusive digital transformation. The EU-LAC Digital Alliance aims to establish and improve strong, comprehensive, and mutually-beneficial mechanisms for these regions to collaborate to harmonize digital policies and regulations and govern the internet based on shared values and interests.

The signing of the declaration came along with a commitment to follow up with a high-level political dialogue to launch the alliance. The Directorate General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA) of the European Commission opened a preparatory process to learn about the perspectives, priorities, concerns, and proposals of civil society organizations (CSOs) in LAC. This included a survey to gather input from regional CSOs ahead of the policy dialogue, which was held 27-29 November in Cartagena, Colombia.

Amalia Toledo attended and participated in discussions to amplify the voices of the Wikimedia Foundation and communities in an important space that can positively influence diverse political regulatory contexts in the region. These conversations were centered around five broad themes in order to identify common objectives for each topic and agree on actions of shared interest: 1) Data governance, 2) e-governance, 3) cybersecurity, 4) connectivity, and 5) Artificial Intelligence (AI). The November event started a series of digital policy dialogues scheduled over the next two years, which will culminate in the 2025 EU-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit.

The Foundation was part of a group of Latin American and Caribbean CSOs that collaborated to ensure that joint interventions could, generally, advance three goals: 1) Ensuring that diverse CSO voices were heard, since they have experience, evidence-based knowledge, and can serve as a bridge for constructive exchanges throughout the process; 2) alerting others stakeholders when crucial details about the impact of internet-related regulation on the exercise of rights online were ignored or excluded from the dialogue; and, 3) contributing to the thematic objectives being developed and implemented in a rights-respecting and gender-responsive manner.

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

Organizing a workshop for the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA)

On 22 November, Wikimedia Europe organized a workshop for the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA), which is the EU network of National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) in the field of audiovisual media. The meeting aimed at explaining the Wikimedia model and its approach to disinformation to some of the current and prospective Digital Services Coordinators (DSCs), which are the NRAs in charge of the implementation of the new EU Digital Services Act (DSA) rules.It is of fundamental importance for the Wikimedia Foundation and communities to establish a fruitful dialogue with these authorities, since some of them (such as the French regulator, ARCOM; the Italian AGCOM; the Irish Media Commission; and, the Slovak Council for Media Services), have already been designated as Digital Service Coordinators (DSCs), or will be designated as such shortly. The workshop provided a chance to establish direct contact with these authorities, and offer them the opportunity to learn more about the Wikimedia projects, their collaborative model, and how the Foundation and Wikimedians address disinformation. Indeed, one of the main challenges in the implementation of the new provisions of the DSA is the lack of knowledge about the concrete functioning of Wikipedia and the other projects.

The workshop was introduced and moderated by Michele Failla, Senior EU Policy Specialist at Wikimedia Europe. Dimi Dimitrov, Director of Policy at Wikimedia Europe, gave a presentation on how Wikipedia works, and Rebecca MacKinnon, Vice-President for Global Advocacy, shared some insights on how the Foundation and Wikimedians tackle disinformation. Overall, the event received positive feedback by the participants, and other meetings are scheduled to follow.

Attending the Bali Civil Society and Media Forum (BCSMF) to discuss elections, disinformation, and regulation for generative AI

On November 28 and 29, the Bali Civil Society and Media Forum (BCSMF), under the umbrella of the Bali Democracy Forum, brought together 60 participants from the Asia-Pacific region (mostly members of governments, election commissions, the UN, news media, and CSOs) for conversations around elections, disinformation, and democracy. The event was hosted by the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Open Government Partnership, and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). It provided a welcome opportunity for Rachel Arinii Judhistari, Lead Public Policy Specialist for Asia, to discuss electoral disinformation ahead of the elections in India and Indonesia in 2024, as well as the thorny issues around regulation of generative AI.


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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