Public policy/FAQ

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This list is ever-evolving. It is meant to clarify the Foundation's public policy priorities, who works on what, and much more so that members of the free knowledge movement can make connections and collaborate to ensure that everyone, anywhere, can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

This FAQ is only useful if it addresses relevant questions. Do you have a question we should add? Should we provide more details to an answer? Do you love it as it is? Let us know! Share your feedback via talk page or comment on the Movement Strategy Forum.

General questions about our workEdit

What kind of work does the Global Advocacy team do?Edit

The Global Advocacy team is part of the Wikimedia Foundation Legal Department. We monitor, analyze, and provide input on laws, policies, and practices that impact the Wikimedia projects and the broader Wikimedia movement. This includes a wide array of activities, including: tracking and providing comments on proposed laws; talking to governments and intergovernmental bodies; joining industry and civil society coalitions; conducting research about effective regulation; and, working with community leaders to address their policy concerns.

Why does Wikimedia do advocacy and public policy work? Why is this necessary?Edit

We imagine “a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.” This is an ambitious goal, and one which requires certain legal and political conditions to thrive. The simple act of sharing knowledge freely online is radical and challenging in many contexts. Volunteers face barriers on our own projects, as well as external barriers caused by weak or hostile policy environments. For example, some government regulations restrict the ability to critique the government or force volunteers to reveal their identity when they share information online. Disinformation campaigns are a growing challenge to sharing verifiable knowledge and maintaining public trust. This is why the Wikimedia Foundation and broader community engage in advocacy and public policy work. Together, we stand for policies that support and protect peoples’ right to freely access and share knowledge, and we stand against policies which may be harmful to this vision.

How does Wikimedia decide when to do advocacy, and on what issues?Edit

The team considers several factors when deciding whether to engage in advocacy regarding a particular issue or at a particular time. To determine relevance, we may look at the impact of an issue on the people in the movement, the model by which our platform is organized, or the values we hold as a movement. We also look for opportunities where our movement, model, or values can bring something unique to a policy conversation or have a particularly strong impact. Finally, we work closely with the regional community to identify issues that are particularly relevant to their work in the movement.

Some focus areas of our work include: copyright and intellectual property, privacy, intermediary protections for platforms, disinformation, and human rights. You can read more about these in our “about” section on Meta. For examples of what we actually do to advocate on these topics you can read our monthly retrospective, “Don’t Blink”, on Diff.

Who is part of the Global Advocacy team and where are they located?Edit

The Global Advocacy team is a group of policy and advocacy experts who are based around the world. This includes specialists focused on a particular topic area, such as human rights or disinformation, as well as regional specialists who conduct policy work in their local regions. Our team also has members dedicated to policy research, community coordination, and movement communications.

The current staff of the Global Advocacy team are listed on our Meta page. Check it out to learn more about who we are, as well as our roles and responsibilities.

Where can I get updates about Wikimedia’s global advocacy work?Edit

The best way to stay up-to-date with the Wikimedia global advocacy team is to follow us on Twitter and to sign up to our mailing list. We also post regular updates on the Diff platform, and we publish longer analyses of policy developments on our Medium account. More general information about the Wikimedia Foundation’s advocacy work, including staff roles, responsibilities, and contact information, can be found on our Meta page.

You often mention both public policy and global advocacy. Is there a difference between the public policy and global advocacy team?Edit

The Public Policy and Global Advocacy team are the same team. There is no difference between the two. Both “public policy” and “advocacy” are terms that can be used to describe the work of attempting to shape regulations or other actions taken by governments as well as actions that involve public education, promoting values, and establishing best practices. “Advocacy” has become a key focus since it is a thematic track in the 2030 Movement Strategy process as well as in the Wikimedia Foundation’s midterm and annual plans. That is why the team which was previously known as “Public Policy” adopted a more accurate framing of “Global Advocacy.”

We understand that the use of two names can be confusing. We are working toward only using the Global Advocacy name. Thanks for bearing with us!

Does the Wikimedia Foundation partner with other organizations on advocacy activities?Edit

Yes, the Wikimedia Foundation often partners with other organizations to advocate for free knowledge. We work through a network of allied organizations, affiliates, and individual activists.

Outside of the Wikimedia movement, many organizations advocate for an open, participatory, informative, human-rights respecting online information ecosystem. We have worked with Creative Commons, Access Now, Human Rights Watch, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Internet Archive, Public Knowledge, the Open Knowledge Foundation, Derechos Digitales, InternetLab, R3D, Centro de Estudios en Libertad de Expresión y Acceso a la Información, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Foundation for Media Alternatives, Observacom, the American Civil Liberties Union, Committee to Protect Journalists, Center for Democracy and Technology, and more. Our work with these groups can take the form of open letters, joint amicus briefs, public events, advocacy campaigns, private workshops, and more.

Within the Wikimedia movement we rely heavily on Affiliates, user groups and volunteers. These partnerships are invaluable. Wikimedians working on free knowledge projects every day know best how shifts in their local contexts may produce challenges or opportunities for the free knowledge movement. They also have their own networks of allied groups with whom we can collaborate. For more information about how we work with others, please visit our “Work with us” page and check out our list of resources, which contains joint letters, lawsuits and campaigns that we've created with partners.

How can the Wikimedia Foundation, which is based in the United States, advocate policies in other regions and countries?Edit

Although the Wikimedia Foundation is incorporated and headquartered in the United States, the free knowledge movement is global. The Global Advocacy team exists to protect the movement, its people, and its values around the world. The impact of policy developments that either promote or prohibit free knowledge on the internet often extend beyond the borders of one single country, and are felt by our contributors and readers across the globe.

We understand that policy change is most successful when it is informed by those who are most directly impacted and best understand their own local context. Advocacy efforts are also most effective when they are conducted by constituents of the policy makers that are meant to be influenced. For these reasons we have regional policy specialists (listed on our Meta page) who work closely with networks of affiliates, volunteers, and allied organizations to identify and support policy work that is most impactful on a local level. These collaborations ensure that our work is informed by local contexts, as well as the interests and needs of free knowledge advocates in the countries where we advocate.

How can the Wikimedia Foundation's advocacy work coexist with an encyclopedic tone and neutral point of view?Edit

The policy of writing from a neutral point of view does not conflict with the advocacy work of the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia volunteers. While Wikipedia has a policy of writing from a neutral point of view, not all Wikimedia projects take a position of strict neutrality. For example, Wikivoyage has a policy of putting the traveler first instead of striving for a neutral tone. Wikimedians who engage in advocacy are similarly focused on advancing the legal, legislative, and policy environment that is essential for all of Wikimedia's work—including projects like Wikipedia.

Advocacy is an essential part of our mission to empower and engage people to make knowledge freely accessible around the world. Wikimedia volunteers and the Wikimedia Foundation have a long history of advocating for rights and rules, like free expression, privacy, and copyright, which allow people to share information and enable our projects to exist. Wikimedia's 2030 strategy process recognized that legal and legislative changes around the world can have a large impact on the opportunities and risks of our work.

Does your team review and update all of the Wikimedia Foundation's policies? Do you also decide Wikipedia's policies and guidelines?Edit

The Global Advocacy team focuses on influencing public policy, or the decisions made by governments, industry, and technology standards that set the norms and rules for our work. This is different from the policies (and guidelines) that the Wikimedia Foundation adopts as an organization, or that community members adopt on Wikimedia projects.

What's the difference between your team and the Trust and Safety Team?Edit

The Trust and Safety policy team focuses on internal policies (such as the Universal Code of Conduct) that enable structural improvements to community health. This is different from Global Advocacy—see above.

Questions about our human rights workEdit

What role do human rights play in the Wikimedia Foundation’s advocacy work?Edit

The belief that access to knowledge is a human right is a cornerstone of the free knowledge movement. Wikimedia projects provide platforms through which everyone, everywhere, can exercise their right to share and access knowledge freely. The movement’s success depends on the extent to which the rights of all volunteers and audiences can be protected and respected. To this end, universal human rights principles guide Global Advocacy’s work advancing policies and regulations that promote an internet ecosystem where our movement can flourish.

What is the difference between the Human Rights team and your team?Edit

The Human Rights team is part of Trust and Safety, and works to protect individual members of the community when their human rights and physical safety are at imminent risk of harm. The Global Advocacy team is leading the implementation of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Human Rights Policy. This includes implementing internal processes to conduct human rights due diligence and to track and report on our human rights commitments. We also work to help policymakers and the global public understand the connection between free knowledge, public policy, and human rights.

Doesn’t the human rights policy focus the Wikimedia Foundation’s work on “Western” values in regions and countries that are in other parts of the world?Edit

Human rights are universal and should be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere. Articles One and Two of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights state “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Human rights violations occur in every region of the world, including in Western, democratic societies. However, the nature of these violations differ significantly across regions and some Wikimedians face higher risks of being harassed, jailed, or worse for seeking the truth, writing, and sharing neutral information in more authoritarian countries. Our work seeks to understand where these risks are greatest and prioritizes such situations within our community.

Questions about our anti-disinformation workEdit

How does the Wikimedia Foundation avoid false and misleading information on Wikipedia?Edit

Information from Wikipedia and from the Wikimedia projects is used by people everywhere, every day. The Wikimedia Foundation and movement are committed to work together to keep Wikipedia’s content trustworthy. Because Wikipedia’s model is based on volunteers and communities working together to contribute, source, and vet content, the Wikimedia Foundation’s anti-disinformation efforts do not directly address content on Wikipedia. Instead, we run dedicated training sessions, share information, and provide tools to support the community in their work. We also complement their work by coordinating with policymakers, civil society organizations, academia, and others to understand how false and misleading information appears on Wikipedia. This information helps us develop public policies and endorse regulations that support our model and make it thrive.

How does the Wikimedia Foundation ensure that its anti-disinformation efforts don’t cross the line into the Wikimedia Foundation setting editorial policies for Wikimedia projects?Edit

The editorial policies of Wikimedia projects like Wikipedia will always be set by the community of volunteers that builds, maintains, and advances the free knowledge ecosystem. The Wikimedia Foundation has committed to community consultation for any major policy updates such as changes to our terms of use. We only change content in line with our legal requirements or in response to emergency threats of serious harm (the latter are extremely rare). We will never interpret our role as taking control over editorial policy and content of the Wikimedia projects, but rather as providing knowledge, support, and tools to our communities.

I noticed false or misleading information on Wikipedia! What should I do?Edit

If you find false information on Wikipedia, which you believe may be misinformation, please feel free to edit the project directly!

If you don’t know how to edit Wikipedia, check some helpful information on how to do it. You are also welcome to engage in a discussion on the talk page, and share why you think this was misinformation, if needed.

If you think that false information was shared on purpose, you suspect coordination, or you think that it was part of a larger disinformation campaign, please reach out to a local chapter or to us by emailing the Trust and Safety team (ca@wikimedia.org) or the Anti-Disinformation Strategy Lead (csciubbacaniglia@wikimedia.org).

Questions about supporting the community and affiliatesEdit

How can the Foundation support the advocacy work of affiliates and community members?Edit

The support we can offer is specific to each advocacy initiative. The best way to find out is to contact us with your goals and campaign ideas at globaladvocacy@wikimedia.org so that we can brainstorm together. In general, we may be able to help you identify stakeholders to contact, allied organizations with whom to partner, or processes whereby you can submit public comments. We may also help you select campaign tactics or access previous campaign communications and planning materials to use as templates. Once again, if you’re looking for support, get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.

Examples of how we've worked with Affiliates and community members can be found on our “Work with us” page. Collaborations include:

  • Co-hosting sessions at events like ESEAP Conference, CEE Conference, WikiIndaba, and RightsCon
  • Organizing conversations where Wikimedians can share their work on topics like anti-surveillance or Copyright advocacy (see examples)
  • Helping Affiliates and individuals prepare for meetings, talks, or round-tables with policymakers and other local stakeholders (ex: helping to develop talking points)
  • Affiliates alerting the Foundation when a new bill or law is being discussed, which may impact the free knowledge movement
  • Collaborating on how to submit comments or responses to new bills or laws
  • Collaborating on analyzing bills and their legal implications for open knowledge projects like Wikipedia

Can you help me to contact lawmakers/ministers/other politicians?Edit

The Global Advocacy team can help you identify relevant stakeholders to contact if you intend to align your advocacy efforts with the Wikimedia movement’s mission to support and advance free knowledge. Please reach out to us either by emailing the policy specialist responsible for your region— see staff —or by sending an inquiry to globaladvocacy@wikimedia.org.

Can you review our open letter? Can you review our policy submissions?Edit

We may review your open letter and policy submission if you desire. However, this is not required, and our ability to review submissions or letters in a timely manner is restricted by our availability and workload. We therefore encourage all affiliates and volunteers to pursue their open letters and policy submissions without our review. You are advocates of free knowledge! We do not want to cause you to miss out on an advocacy opportunity.

You can also contact other Wikimedians who have published open letters and submitted public comments to their governments. For example:

  • Wikimedia Australia (Public comments example)
  • Wikimedia Chile (Open letter example)

How do I determine whether I can sign an open letter on behalf of my Chapter?Edit

Chapters are completely free to decide whether to sign an open letter that is relevant to their work at the local level. Our tip, evaluate: how the letter aligns with the chapter’s defined objectives and positions; what risks, if any, exist for the chapter, its staff and the local community if the letter is signed; and, how signing serves to advance the Chapter's work.

Questions about legal affairsEdit

Are Wikimedia Chapters allowed to pursue their own advocacy and policy initiatives, independent of the Wikimedia Foundation? It is unclear in our contracts.Edit

Every Chapter agreement contains a clause stating "Chapter shall not engage in any social or political activism which might distract from either the Mission or the promotion of free content and knowledge.” The exact wording may be different in some older agreements. This clause does not prohibit public policy and advocacy activity. However, any advocacy must be related to the mission and vision of the Wikimedia movement. If you are unsure or have more questions, please contact legal@wikimedia.org.

Who do I contact about our contract?Edit

For questions about chapter contracts, please contact either Chuck Roslof at croslof@wikimedia.org or legal@wikimedia.org. For anything else, or if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can review this list of contacts within the legal department.

Can I speak with you to get help from lawyers? (For example, if there is intimidation from state or non-state actors pertaining to articles that I edit, or an affiliate organization needs legal support or advocacy)?Edit

For legal and ethical reasons, the Wikimedia Foundation cannot be the attorney for the community of movement organizations. However, the legal team often provides strong support to the community when they are in need of a lawyer. This can take the form of assistance with finding and/or paying for a lawyer. For individual community members, we have three related programs depending on the nature of the case: legal fees assistance, defense of contributors, and community health legal defense.

For movement organizations, we recommend that those organizations with the staff and skills to hire a lawyer do so where possible and when necessary. It may also be possible to request additional grant funding to support such a case. If a movement organization needs assistance finding a lawyer, they can reach out to legal@wikimedia.org, but we may not be able to assist in all cases.

To request support, please consult this list of legal department contacts. You can also reach out to the general legal department email at legal@wikimedia.org or the relevant regional contact from the global advocacy team—see staff.

For human-rights related concerns, please contact the Human Rights team at talktohumanrights@wikimedia.org. For emergencies in which a person is at risk of serious harm or death, you can reach out to emergency@wikimedia.org.