“Don’t Blink”: Protecting the Wikimedia model, its people, and its values in April 2024

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Image collage for the April 2024 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)

Publishing an open letter calling for the Global Digital Compact to embrace a positive vision for the internet’s future
[Read and sign the open letter here, check our Diff or our Medium blog posts, and learn more about the work we have done related to the Compact]

Following the official reading of the first draft of the Global Digital Compact, the Wikimedia Foundation, along with a number of Wikimedia affiliates, published an open letter to UN Member States: We called for the Compact to embrace a positive vision for the internet’s future that supports and empowers diverse communities everywhere to build and operate free and open knowledge projects. 

The Global Digital Compact is a new set of principles for internet governance, which is being negotiated and—if successful—will be approved at the Summit of the Future in September 2024. UN Member State facilitators have engaged stakeholders in the process, involving representatives from governments, the UN system, the private sector (including technology companies), civil society, grassroots organizations, academia, and individuals, including youth.

Our open letter builds on efforts over the past two years from Wikimedia affiliates and the Foundation to help shape the Compact, mainly by providing both written and oral input in a number of public consultations. These include a comprehensive written submission in April 2023. Through the open letter, we are encouraging UN Member States to help us enshrine our values of community-led content moderation and governance in this global framework in order to protect our projects’ futures. We are calling for three commitments to be included in the Compact:

First, that the Compact protect and empower communities to govern online public interest projects through public policy, funding, and other resources;
Second, to promote and protect digital public goods by supporting a robust digital commons from which everyone, everywhere can benefit;
Third and finally, that the Compact centers on the need to build and deploy Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to support and empower, not replace, people who create content and make decisions in the public interest.

The open letter was launched with signatures from twelve Wikimedia affiliates. It now counts 21 Wikimedia affiliates and user groups as signees, as well as from other organizations such as Creative Commons and the Open Knowledge Foundation, and it has garnered over 200 additional individual signatures from over 50 countries, alongside some press attention since publication.

In our blog about the letter, affiliate Wikimedia Chile explained the importance of the process to their organization:

Voices from the Global South are crucial to shaping this discussion. Our experiences are often overlooked when determining technology’s global impact and governance. We urge Wikimedia affiliates and volunteers to actively participate in this conversation, as it presents a rare opportunity to shape and safeguard the internet we desire.

Sign the open letter to show your support for a digital future that protects Wikipedia and other community-led projects for future generations, and check out our Medium blog post or Diff post about the open letter.

Reflecting on principles for internet governance at NETmundial+10 conference

November 2024 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the original 2014 NETmundial conference: a meeting of stakeholders across governments, academia, the technical community, civil society, and industry that produced an agreement on ten principles for internet governance. The recent NETmundial+1 conference was set in an effort to reaffirm these principles and to offer operational guidelines to help implement them.

Jan Gerlach (Public Policy Director) and Amalia Toledo (Lead Public Policy Specialist for Latin America and the Caribbean) participated at the conference, bringing the perspective of the Foundation to other members of civil society in order to add to discussions and shape their results. They advocated our positive vision for the internet, calling for guidelines for multi-stakeholder consensus-building and decision-making that ensure community voices are heard and incorporated in internet policy discussions.

We are encouraged to see the emphasis on these themes in the outcome document of the conference and look forward to the continued involvement of civil society in conversations about internet policy, including the continuation of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) as a place to cultivate such input.

Wikimedians discuss “Fostering rights and inclusion in the digital age” at 2024 Digital Rights and Inclusion Conference
[Read about this year’s panels here, and about Wikimedian’s participation in last year’s DRIF here; our reflections on DRIF 2024 will be published soon!]  

A record number of Wikimedians participated at the Digital Rights and Inclusion Conference (DRIF) 2024 from 23–25 April in Accra, Ghana. For the third year in a row, the Foundation sponsored the conference, a major regional forum in which digital policies and internet governance in Africa are debated and shaped, and where participants and attendees forge partnerships for action. Wikimedians hosted and participated on multiple panels, covering a broad range of important issues related to digital rights and inclusion.

Wikimedians from Senegal, Togo, and Burkina Faso participated on a panel exploring the challenges and opportunities related to the integration of women in the digital space and free and open knowledge projects. The panelists spoke about the current participation of women in their countries and others, and highlighted the cultural, socio-economic and technological barriers that may hinder their engagement. Wikimedians from the Women of Uganda Network and the Open Foundation West Africa joined two other panelists to highlight the role of local leadership, capacity building, and research in developing sustainable, reliable, accessible, and affordable broadband in Africa.

Foundation staff also spoke on two panels. Ziski Putz (Senior Movement Advocacy Manager), Sandister Tei (Movement Communications Specialist), and Kwaku Addo Ofori (Engineering Manager) spoke alongside panelists from the Mozilla Foundation and UNICEF Ghana about the importance of treating the internet as a shared public good, and how to promote shared, free, and communally governed spaces through regulation and innovation.

Foundation staff Richard Gaines (Human Rights Policy and Advocacy Lead), Felix Nartey (Senior Program Officer, Campaigns), Abigail Adu-Daako (Trust and Safety Policy Specialist) were joined by Maateuw Mbaye from international human rights NGO Article 19 to discuss how the Foundation and volunteer community monitor and protect Wikipedia webpages from disinformation during elections.

For more on this year’s panel, read our blog post. We will soon share Wikimedians reflections on DRIF 2024 in another post that will be published on Diff.

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

Talking about Section 230 and the Wikimedia projects with Mike Masnick’s Techdirt podcast and EFF’s Speaking Freely Series
[Listen to the Techdirt podcast and to the EFF interview]

During April, Global Advocacy Vice President Rebecca Mackinnon explained why the protections for online platforms established in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) are so important to collaborative, public interest projects like Wikipedia. She also warned that when lawmakers act to address the social harms attributed to commercial social media platforms, public interest projects like the Wikimedia projects can be harmed, even if that was not the lawmakers’ intent.

In a conversation with Mike Masnick of TechDirt, Rebecca reacted to a recent US congressional hearing that discussed proposals to reform Section 230. She explained why the law is so important for enabling community-led content moderation and governance on projects like Wikipedia. In his introduction, Masnick also highlighted the Wikimedia Foundation’s blog post series on the importance of Section 230.

Then, in a wide-ranging conversation with David Greene of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Rebecca discussed her long career in digital rights and journalism, the threat to free expression posed by taking an authoritarian approach to internet regulation, and how the Wikimedia community approaches the problems of disinformation and misinformation on the projects.

To learn more, listen to the Techdirt podcast and the interview with the EFF.

Reporting outcomes of workshop with Yale ISP on the importance of nonprofit voices in internet governance policy debates
[Read our blog post, co-authored with Yale ISP]

As part of the research activities of the Wikimedia/Yale Law School Initiative on Intermediaries and Information (WIII), the Foundation and Yale Law School’s Information Society Project (ISP) conducted a workshop. In partnership, we gathered a group of lawyers, policymakers, scholars, and researchers to discuss how to reframe internet governance policy decisions in order to better include input from nonprofit and community-based platforms. Prominent examples of these platforms are Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap, the Debian Project, and Mastodon, whose value derives not from the centralized moderation models of larger, for-profit platforms, but from fostering community-driven content creation and moderation.

Ultimately, many in the group agreed that public interest projects should not evade regulation, but should use it as an opportunity to showcase the benefits of the not-for-profit model as well as encourage its adoption by other platforms. These approaches have enabled the advancement of important values for organizations in online spaces, such as data minimization and human rights protections. The group also recognized that the nonprofit model brings its own financial and structural challenges, and with it the need for public investment and support for not-for-profit initiatives.

Read our blog post, co-authored with Yale ISP, for more details on this active discussion and its pursuit of the various legal, technical, and policy-oriented strategies that can help foster a healthier internet ecosystem. 

Announcements from our team

Ricky Gaines to represent the Wikimedia Foundation as an alternate on Global Network Initiative Board

We are excited to announce that Ricky Gaines (Human Rights Policy and Advocacy Lead) will be representing the Foundation on the Global Network Initiative (GNI) Board as an alternate board member in the Company constituency. The GNI is a nongovernmental organization that seeks to prevent internet censorship and protect the privacy rights of individuals online. The Foundation has been formally involved with GNI since 2018, when we were admitted as an observer; in 2020, we joined as a full member. Since then, our membership has allowed us to collaborate with and learn from the variety of committed organizations and individuals who make up GNI in order to further our efforts to promote human rights like free expression and privacy online. We look forward to this opportunity to deepen our involvement with GNI and continue our work to promote our shared policy priorities.


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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