Talk:Legal/Foundation Policy and Political Association Guideline

Latest comment: 5 years ago by Courcelles in topic Improve markup around References

Minor point: "Colllaborative Advocacy" is a misspelling.

Fixed. Cheers, Stephen LaPorte (WMF) (talk) 01:28, 2 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Affiliation" Edit

This is a problematic word because in its normal usage it implies a subsidiary relationship. Thus it would strike me as more accurate in the introduction if "should affiliate itself publicly" read "should associate itself publicly." Eclecticology (talk) 01:07, 2 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thanks Eclecticology. I tend to agree. I will ask Stephen to take another look and make the changes as appropriate. Should we change the title as well? If so, what do you suggest? Geoffbrigham (talk) 00:37, 3 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Page protection Edit

I really don't think that page protection is appropriate here. This is a Wikimedia community wiki, so the decision to protect a page here should be made by the Wikimedia community - not the Wikimedia Foundation. Please unprotect this page. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 04:45, 2 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I plusone Mike, there is no real need and it’s generally bothersome for general maintenance of the page (category, misspelling, dead links, etc.); the general notice in the top is sufficient to see there is some officiality here. ~ Seb35 [^_^] 06:55, 13 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Chapters Edit

It should be clearly noted that this page only relates to the Wikimedia Foundation, not to Wikimedia chapters - in the same way that it doesn't apply to the Wikimedia community. I'm asking this for the sake of clarity, rather than anything else. It might be good if there was a less procedural, more general policy, focused document that chapters could be encouraged to sign up to agree to... Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 04:50, 2 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Promotional Use of Website Assets" Edit

I think this is what MZMcBride was talking about when he called this a power-grab on wikimedia-l. As currently written, this basically tries to remove the ability of the Wikimedia community to make decisions about posting opposal banners/blacking out when things like SOPA happens, without seeking WMF approval via a subset of staff members. I can't see this one flying - this decision-making should clearly remain with the Wikimedia community, although I'd expect the positions of the WMF General Counsel and the WMF Chief Exec to have significant bearings on the community's decision-making process (whoever the CFA is, they are clearly not relevant here). Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 04:57, 2 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There's no guarantee that the editor community on a small wiki will share the same values as the broader Wikimedia community or the WMF. Administrators are often unelected and have an unlimited term of office. There needs to be some sort of review process for the actions they take. The policy says that the Advocacy Advisory group will be a community group, so it's hard to see how the policy could be interpreted as favouring WMF control. I think MZMcBride simply misread it, confusing the procedure for staff with the procedure for community members. -- Tim Starling (talk) 06:06, 2 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As I understand it, everyone has been saying that this new statement from the General Counsel's office is not the policy to review administrator actions. Your reply seems to suggest that it is.
I'm not sure what you mean by "the policy says that the Advocacy Advisory group will be a community group, so it's hard to see how the policy could be interpreted as favouring WMF control." This confuses me. I thought the entire policy was only for staff involvement in political actions. In that sense, it's all within the Wikimedia Foundation's control, isn't it? --MZMcBride (talk) 21:49, 3 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The Advocacy Advisory Group is always listed under "Community", and adjacent to any community RfC. (Example.) On the other hand, the page says the group is "managed by the Legal and Community Advocacy Department" – so what does that mean? Who is in this group, and why is it managed by a Foundation department? --JN466 00:39, 4 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think it was obvious with SOPA that the SOPA blackout people were the smaller community. That is the problem. The people at the WMF are the most powerful, unelected individuals and the people need to have some ability not to be manipulated into furthering their personal political agendas. Just the fact that you guys are in San Fransisco, which is extremely expensive, shows that there is a disconnect. Move the offices to Florida where the taxes are much lower and you are next to the servers. This is an internet company so physical location doesn't matter. Most in the WMF would be opposed because there are cultural and political reasons for being there, and they aren't ones in the best interest of the encyclopedia or the standard creator of content. Ottava Rima (talk) 14:41, 2 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There are competing issues here, I think:

  1. the Wikimedia Foundation getting further involved in political advocacy when that's not its place; and
  2. whether projects are autonomous and can decide to take political action on their own, regardless of whether that action aligns with Wikimedia's mission (which is very poorly defined).

This policy presupposes that the Wikimedia Foundation should be getting involved in any political action such as blacking out the site. The Wikimedia Foundation was set up to support the growth of the free educational content, not get involved in legislative politics.

Who determines what a community-led effort is and who determines whether a particular outside effort is within Wikimedia's mission? There are a lot of big, open questions here, as Wikimedia ventures further down the dangerous road of political advocacy and engagement. --MZMcBride (talk) 21:49, 3 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I basically aggree with this dilemma and I aggree with Mike and MZMcBride, but I think our will to put any protest on the WM sites should be weighted with the liability the sites have towards the WMF which in turn is liable to its 501(c)(3) status as notified in the bottom of the content page, as well as the US law obviously (even if it could bothersome, particularly for communities whose main countries have diplomatic difficulties with the US (e.g. Iran)). So I aggree the WMF should aggree before important political actions and use of the WM sites; the main question is about the power it has (e.g. veto or not for a particular action?), so I guess the easiest way is, at least, to consult and discuss with the General Counsel before action. Ultimately if WMF loses its 501(c)(3) status because of some community, it would affect the whole Wikimedia world.
~ Seb35 [^_^] 12:28, 13 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Monetary Support Edit

This needs community discussion. Personally, I'm not currently convinced that the GAC is necessarily the best place for discussing and approving this sort of funding. I'm also not convinced that the FDC is the best place, either. Perhaps there needs to be a separate process for this sort of funding, which should include a significantly higher amount of public scrutiny than the GAC or FDC? (particularly given that having a high number of other applications going through the GAC can distract from/hide the more controversial requests - the same as having a section covering this in applications to the FDC would hide/distract from the issues). Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 05:01, 2 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Chapter involvement Edit

The WMF is definitely not going to be the best organisation to be consulted on policies and politics of countries aside from the USA. As such, if there is going to be a set approach for consultation, then it should naturally involve the chapters in the relevant countries where they exist (or are in formation). I would hope that the WMF would never endorse an action that affects a country where a chapter exists, without asking for (or, even worse, in opposition to) the views and endorsement of the appropriate chapter... Thanks. Mike Peel (talk)

The important thing here is that chapters deal with these matters in a manner consistent with the laws of their own country. Eclecticology (talk) 08:34, 2 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Strange bias Edit

"Example: Blogging to highlight the work of the Center for Democracy and Policy in support of the rights of online editors." I find things like this to be rather inappropriate. Wikipedia is not here to defend "online editors." We do not tolerate libel, personal attacks, and the rest. many of these laws are about sites that do. We are undermining our own image and standards by even linking to such campaigns. Ottava Rima (talk) 14:38, 2 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Impressions and vetos Edit

This table attempts to present in a more visual manner the authorities who can control policy and political affiliations according to my impressions of this guideline:

Affiliation type Staff Community Board
  CFA CTO GCounsel JWalsh Sue Other    
Endorse or critique       Consult        
TM Endorsement       Consult     AAG (consult), RfC (if time)  
Collaborative Advocacy       Consult     AAG (consult), RfC (if time) Possible consultation
Promotional Use of Website Assets       Consult     AAG (consult), RfC (consensus) Consultation
Movement Partnership       Consult     AAG (consult), RfC (consult and poss. consensus)  
Monetary support       Consult    
Grant staff
GAC, AAG (consult), community review and comment  

- Amgine/meta wikt wnews blog wmf-blog goog news 16:44, 2 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thanks. Nice table. --JN466 21:00, 3 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I've fixed some discrepancies. --JN466 01:11, 4 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The consultation with the Head of Communications is formal; by preventing that consultation from occurring Mr Walsh has a form of veto over whether an association can be approved. - Amgine/meta wikt wnews blog wmf-blog goog news 01:45, 4 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Is there a reason why you think Jay might prevent such consultation? Mike Peel (talk) 04:49, 4 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Way to long Edit

The guideline would be better if it read:

"All such requests will be told to go away with whatever degree of politeness the foundation judges is appropriate."

Geni (talk) 04:25, 3 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Ha, it makes sense and is fair. Ottava Rima (talk) 05:05, 3 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I like it. --JN466 20:34, 3 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Endorsements or critiques Edit

Prior to the SOPA blackout, there was a SOPA critique by Geoff here, "How SOPA will hurt the free web and Wikipedia". This blog piece has recently been critiqued by Tim Starling, in a post to Wikimedia-l. In his post, Tim analyses the argument and asserts that the blog post was misleading: 'Maybe SOPA was a "serious threat to freedom of expression on the Internet", and worth fighting against, but it wasn't a threat to Wikipedia's existence.' Many people voted for the blackout under time pressure and based on the information they were given.

This is not a good thing. Ideally, concerns of the sort that Tim voiced, half a year after the event, should be taken into account before publication of such criticism and endorsement. However, the proposed policy does not foresee any change in procedure, specifying

Review and Approval

  • Staff: General Counsel (approval) and Head of Communications (consultation)
  • Community: General notice
  • Board: No review required

I think this is unsatisfactory. There should be broader discussion and involvement prior to publication, rather than a fait accompli, or such criticisms and endorsements should not be made. I would also prefer if, in the spirit of neutrality, any such criticisms or endorsements presented both sides of the story, in line with the Foundation's NPOV ideal, including its stricture to "write for the enemy". We should not be trying to get people to vote one way or another; we should be giving them all the information, all the pros and cons, so that they can make their own informed decision. --JN466 20:34, 3 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Additionally, many people voted for the SOPA blackout were connected to other organizations and with a conflict of interest. Ottava Rima (talk) 21:12, 3 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Deviation sentence" makes the policy nigh worthless (wertlos) Edit

WMF reserves the right to deviate from this policy depending on the circumstances. The General Counsel must approve any such deviation.

Is extraordinarily ill-considered. It opens a barn door where a padlock is called for. "Policies" by their nature are binding creatures - to say "ohm by the way, this policy can be ignored if the General Counsel says we can" renders this more a "suggestion" than a "policy." Collect (talk) 03:05, 4 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Does the WMF Even Have the Right to Be Involved in This? Edit

Since the WMF is unwilling to have any authority over the control over content, and Jimbo Wales basically allowed powers to be stripped from him to do just that after he tried to clean up Commons, how can the WMF even say they have any ability to control anything the community does? Anything the WMF is involved in would not be able to go beyond the WMF. They cannot speak for Wikipedia, or have any true involvement in what the community decides with its projects. After all, they keep saying they can't get involved in many matters which the community has asked them to be involved (such as the majority that said that pornography was a problem and they listened to the less than 40% minority on the issue, hence why we still lack an image filter). Ottava Rima (talk) 02:07, 5 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thanks for Comments and Deference to Community Edit

Thanks to everyone for their comments. Let me explain a few things hopefully to address some questions raised on this page and elsewhere. First, this policy only applies to the Foundation staff, not to the community. Specifically, the introduction states: "This guideline covers requests to and actions by the WMF; it does not address independent community responses and initiatives in response to policy or political issues" (emphasis added). Therefore, when WMF staff resources are not required (which is usually the case), this guideline does not cover actions like the recent Russian blackout, the banners placed on certain language projects by the community, or appeals by the community on policy issues. This policy only applies when (extremely limited) Foundation resources are being used to support policy or political causes. The intended central theme: The community participation is critical before we make any major Foundation decisions or use any significant Foundation resources in this arena.

Indeed, this focus of the guideline is consistent with our actual practice post-SOPA to involve the community and hear its voice. One example is the recent RfC involving the Internet Defense League (IDL). The Foundation was asked to join the IDL a short time ago, we put the question to the community, the community rejected it, and the Foundation did not join (even though many like-minded organizations did). My concern is that, if we do not have an internal guideline on how to handle these requests in the future, we risk forgetting our best practices, doing everything by the seat of our pants, and recreating a flawed wheel in an emergency scenario - as opposed to pulling out and following an established process that is transparent and inclusive of the community. When we receive these requests from outside organizations to support certain causes, I want to point to this guideline to underscore that - as opposed to most organizations - the Foundation does not unilaterally make its decision through the General Counsel, ED, or Board, but requires community consultation as well as consensus on the most major initiatives. A guideline that is stable - with the correct legal and finance review such as this one - is a useful tool in that context.

There also have been some comments about the internal review process, which maybe I can address here. These reviews are necessary but may be undertaken quickly if the circumstances so dictate. As set out in the guideline, there are serious IRS restrictions and prohibitions as well as sophisticated legal and finance implications that impact our ability to be involved in policy and political campaigns - there are some limited things that we can do, there are some things that we can't do at all, and there are some things that we can do within established parameters. We must ensure we are complying with these applicable regulations and law, and we must verify that we are not exceeding certain mandatory financial thresholds. For that reason, the approval of the General Counsel and Chief Finance and Administration Officer is required before we engage in any policy or political initiative.

The head of Communications is consulted because outward-facing messaging from the Foundation necessitates that expertise. He or she also coordinates their own network of communication representatives in the community and chapters, helping to ensure community transparency and coordination as appropriate. Involvement by the Executive Director, who answers to the Board of Trustees (chosen in part by the community and chapters), is desirable to ensure proper allocation of limited staff resources, consideration of all legal and financial requirements, and consistency with the mission of the movement.

I hope this provides some background that you may find helpful as you consider this guideline. I am on holiday but reading all the comments. Thank you for your constructive input, which, of course, will prove helpful as we seek to improve the guideline. Geoffbrigham (talk) 22:44, 2 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

As noted above, the purpose of this internal guideline is to help estabish procedure for WMF staff (not the community) and to help ensure community involvment and participation when others are requesting the use of WMF resources. My chief concern is that expectations about the role of the WMF in political and policy debates may be too high. We are not a political organization; our role is to support the writing and contribution of educational content. We have received multiple requests - as discussed above - in which outside parties do not understand that the community is critical to the decision whether to allocate restricted resources to an association with a political or policy cause. (See the above comment about IDL.) We can't write a policy that predicts every possibility, and the role of the staff will vary according to the issues and projects. That said, often, legal and financial requirements will prevent any kind of WMF association (a GC and CFA decision that is manadatory); often we simply don't have WMF staff resources; and often WMF priorities do not allow deviation from our strategy focus. In light of the discussion, I feel it is worthwhile to reiterate these points and will include the following sentence in the "Introduction," which hopefully responds to some of the concerns expressed:
The role of the WMF staff will vary according to the specific circumstances of each case, but the staff should defer to the established consensus of the community subject to legal, financial, and regulatory restrictions; the constraints of available staff resources; and the need to focus on the WMF annual and strategic plans as approved by the Board of Trustees.
Many thanks.

Geoffbrigham (talk) 07:44, 6 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"this policy only applies to the Foundation staff, not to the community" Then it should be on the Foundation Wiki, not Meta. Meta has cross-community policies, not Foundation Policies. Unless, you are now saying that Meta supersedes the Foundation and we can put policies here that affect Foundation staff. Additionally, new policies here require community consensus, which also means that the community would have the ability to alter the policy (even against your wishes). Ottava Rima (talk) 15:32, 6 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Meta also serves for documentation, according to the Main Page, and this seems like a fine place for that, particularly when you want to permit comments and questions. For instance, the research newsletter is purely informative, as are WMF Board reports/September-October, 2011, Language committee/Reports/2011-11 and Wikimedia chapters/Reports/Wikimedia Czech Republic/2011-11-01. Also, other groups do post their policies and position statements here simply to advise others. For instance, drawing back to a conversation in which I was involved, Wikimedia UK posted a statement of their principles and the Board of Trustees posted their resolutions. Neither were seeking community consensus, but simply communicating - and changes to those pages wouldn't necessarily have impacted WM UK's feelings or the Board's resolution. :) I think Geoff is interested in making sure that the community is aware of Foundation practice and has an opportunity speak about it. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 19:48, 6 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Documentation of the projects material, not the Foundation. The Foundation and the project are separate, as we are volunteers while the Foundation has staff. You can't cross the two unless there would be legal ramifications, with this evidence of controlling content. Geoff really should have known better before making such an obvious mistake. Foundation policies have to be on the Foundation Wiki. Sure, a page could link over to that, but you can't host it here without severe ramifications and a clear double standard when it comes to what is said about the WMF's role with the projects. Furthermore, "all other groups do post their policies and position statements here" is false. We have obvious examples of the Foundation Wiki and multiple Wikimedia Wikis that are used for such things. That is where their policies go. We don't host policies unless the community here has a say in them. Ottava Rima (talk) 21:19, 6 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I didn't say "all other groups", Ottava. You might want to reread that. :) And the two links I gave you following that were certainly not posted on Meta to invite a say from the community; they are simply informative. The Chapters are also separate, and yet, we host a number of statements and position papers from them. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 21:46, 6 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No other group posts things here as their policy page. Do you see Wikipedia policies here? En? De? etc? Commons policies? This is about policies. Not about "position papers." Many position papers and old essays are regularly deleted as being on the wrong forum. Furthermore, anything posted here is subject to community consensus and community editing. This page would not be. Ottava Rima (talk) 22:09, 6 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Furthermore, it can easily be misconstrued as legal advice from the Foundation to non-Foundation people being put on Meta. Just move it all over to the Foundation with the other Wikilegal statements. None of it matches the spirit or purpose of Meta. Ottava Rima (talk) 22:13, 6 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I am all in favour of limiting political lobbying, whether driven by the community or by the Foundation. What I don't understand is what the Advocacy Advisory Group is. It's managed by a Foundation employee, but said to be representative of the community, rather than the Foundation. How can both be true at the same time? --JN466 23:26, 7 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hi JN ... My hope is that the community manages the group for discussing various political and policy issues in one place; I would prefer that the Foundation not manage it. We have asked that community members become moderators. Not everyone has visibiity on the wide variety of legislative measures taking place worldwide by various legislative, judicial, and executive authorities (issues which hit my desk on a regular basis). When my team receives updates on policy, executive, and legislative matters globally we can share them with the list easily without burdening larger lists (like Announce-l or Wikimedia-l), and those on the list can share what they are learning in their country. The purpose is to understand what is going on, not necessarily to become associated with a cause. The list is open to anybody who is interested in Wikimedia and these types of issues. Anybody can join and share the discussions to broader community audiences. I see the group as a sounding board, not a perfect representation of the community, especially since we will likely only be communicating in English. On major issues however we plan to seek broader community consultation or consensus, as set out in the guideline. Geoffbrigham (talk) 06:26, 8 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Okay, this helps a little (it's Andreas here, by the way, and I am happy to be called that online). So the list does not exist to express the community's seal of approval for supporting a cause, but merely to discuss and clarify issues. Just to be clear, the list we are talking about is this one – – correct? When you say that you are asking community members to become moderators – where have you asked this? The mailing list itself has not had any traffic to date; its archive is empty (except for one "please add me to the list" post).
My fundamental concern related to any political lobbying is that the reputation and goodwill attached to the Wikimedia project as a whole may be wielded in support of a particular cause, even though merely a majority of people within the community (be it 51%, 67% or 90%) actually support the cause in question. Every time the Foundation lobbies, supports, campaigns, it will do so against the will of at least a part of the Wikimedia movement. At some point, minority contributors will feel that by contributing to Wikimedia, they effectively support and empower a group that is lobbying against their personal interests. It is then merely a question of time before contributors will feel alienated and down tools, which in turn will affect Wikimedia demographics, shifting the mean and gradually radicalizing the community as contributors with opposing views leave.
The internet is becoming an ever more central part of people's lives. And increasingly, internet regulation is becoming a party-political issue. In Europe, the Pirate Party is burgeoning, getting 8.5% of the popular vote in Berlin last September for example. It has become a mainstream political party, campaigning mainly on a political platform related to internet regulation, just like the Greens became a mainstream party thirty years ago, campaigning on environmental matters. Within the next decade, you may have two presidential candidates in the US, one campaigning for stronger internet regulation, and the other campaigning against it. It's not wise in my view to adopt a course that will see Wikimedia as wedded to any political party, or position. As I understand it, we have enough small grassroots donors: so there is also no need to do any corporate donors' bidding, and no need to alienate any part of our diverse support base. A politically diverse support base is a very valuable thing to have, and something that should not be given up lightly. Regards. --JN466 13:38, 8 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hi Andreas. Thank you for your thoughts, and many of them resonate with me personally. I firmly believe that political association by WMF should be rare, but, in those unusual cases, we need a public, transparent process. Otherwise, we will just make it up as we go along, which is of course not ideal.
The advocacy advisory email group hopefully will become more active now that we have announced it and will start contributing to it shortly. Every day Wikimedians are discussing political and policy issues that are popping up throughout the globe - without any intention of WMF associating itself with those causes. The email group will hopefully provide an open venue to discuss those developments. I often get updates from free third-party alert services about relevant global policy and political developments (e.g., changes to copyright laws, initiatives to support free licensing), for example, and I would like to share those updates with the community through this group when possible. It is too much detail for general audiences like announce-l or wikimedia-l. Ideally, as I noted, the community would take over this email group and serve as moderators. In our announcement about the guideline, I wrote: "We encourage community members interested in political and policy issues to join the Advocacy Advisory Group, and members should feel free to apply to be moderators."
One person wondered why we put the guideline on Meta, not Foundation Wiki. I want to make sure that the posting of the guideline allowed for community review and comment (which is not easily done on Foundation Wiki). Indeed, in response to some of the comments, we have made changes to clarify, so I have found the comment process most helpful. Many thanks for your feedback and ideas. Geoffbrigham (talk) 07:49, 12 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks for your response, Geoff. --JN466 22:33, 17 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Geoffbrigham - The following is general commentary, not criticism of what you say in specific. The problem really isn't these guidelines per se, which are quite sensible, even laudable, when considered very narrowly. The problem is that within the larger context of the big fight over the politicization of Wikipedia, it looks like effectively - not in terms of the letter of the text, not read in isolation, but considering the actual usages of power - that it's basically part of the process of formalizing that the Wikimedia Foundation will control all nontrivial political uses of Wikipedia. That's true anyway, but it sits uncomfortably against all the rhetoric of "the community" that was fed to the masses recently. I'd very loosely paraphrase these guidelines as: Significant political usages of Wikipedia go through the Wikimedia Foundation, which will determine if it's feasible to do it, including review by the General Counsel and the CFA to make sure it's not legal or financial trouble.

So, what's wrong with that? Again, nothing, considered on its own terms. But in practice it's a reality against a myth of Wikipedia embodying some sort of populist uprising of net.good against the forces of net.evil. Just take a look at what you say above, quote "We are not a political organization; our role is to support the writing and contribution of educational content.". Now, compare this to the SOPA Op-Ed "We acknowledged that our existence is itself political, and we spoke up to protect it." Or the Sue Gardner statement "Like Kat and the rest of the Wikimedia Foundation Board, I have increasingly begun to think of Wikipedia's public voice, and the goodwill people have for Wikipedia, as a resource that wants to be used for the benefit of the public.".

Net Result - When the WMF wants to do something political, the Party Line will be "our existence is itself political". When the WMF doesn't want to do something political, then "We are not a political organization". Your job is of course to support each of these as required :-). And the tension there, especially vs everyone else, is what's driving much of the reaction. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 00:06, 13 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hi Seth ... thank you as usual for your thoughtful remarks. I see your point, but none of the above statements directly says that WMF is a political organization, and, since the above comments, we continue to reflect about our role vis-a-vis the community on these types of associations if a need were to arise. The guideline is partially the result of that reflection.
In the end, it is a matter of degree ... as always. If Congress were to pass a law outlawing open licensing, I have no doubt that WMF would become quite "political" on that issue (within legal limits) since our existance would be at stake, though our involvement under the guideline would be subject to the community giving us the green light if we were to plan another blackout, for example. If Congress sought a law that sponsored cruelty to animals in laboratories, it is hard to see how the WMF would play a role, probably even if there were a community consensus to do something; such a cause would have little to do with our mission. If Congress sought to pass a law that narrows the public domain, I don't know what we would do, but my guess is that the community would tell us through the processes set up under the guideline.
You don't need theoretical guidelines, however, to see how we approach these issues in practice. The community's rejection of the post-SOPA IDL proposal demonstrates what the SOPA blackout illustrated: The community - not WMF - plays the critical role on important political associations. Indeed, the guideline decentralizes control, which frankly is not how smart "power grabs" are choreographed. Also, to be clear, the political associations apart from SOPA that have received press - the Russian and Italian blackouts - used no WMF resources and therefore fall outside the scope of the guideline. Those were purely community decisions. Geoffbrigham (talk) 14:51, 14 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Geoff, thanks for reading and replying. But, ahem, I feel I need to respond that I do know how the WMF approaches these issues in practice. I "was there" for the SOPA manufacture-of-consent, and, well, I didn't write the following "There was bullying in the IRC session, bullying on the VP, bullying in talk pages, bullying in the RFC.". I can attest to the bullying though. Disclaimer, I oppose SOPA. But I have no doubt of what would have happened to me if I had voiced full-throated opposition to what WMF was doing. I got enough grief for my relatively muted cynical misgivings as it was. The war-drums campaign that took place there simply doesn't compare to something comparatively trivial such as whether WMF should add its name to the launch of a tiny PR organization (the IDL). Now, the guidelines put multiple choke points in place, per the diagram above, which I personally think is actually overall a good thing (and what draws the dislike of community editors who do want non-WMF-driven activism using English Wikipedia, which won't happen). But those choke-points will be almost irrelevant by definition for something that WMF wants to do.

Now, I don't take WMF as monolithic, and I'm sure there's people inside it with various views. The SOPA propagandizing was a big gamble, of bet-the-company type, and it's no small feat that WMF won that gamble. But the case which realistically concerns me is not "environmental issues" or "animal rights" etc, but something like European Union privacy or data-protection laws. I can readily envision a situation where as in SOPA, there are large commercial interests lobbying against extending such privacy or data-protection laws - e.g. Google - and suddenly there is another WMF campaign that "our existence is itself political". And Wikipedia must be used once more to do an action that impolite and skeptical observers might uncharitably describe as massive PR for a big corporate donor, not having the trust and love for the WMF that would lead them to believe it's "for the benefit of the public." (if what's good for General Motors is good for America, is what's a benefit for Google then a benefit for the public?).

To be fair, it's unreasonable to expect these guidelines to solve that issue themselves. But also to be fair, that's where the real action will be. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 21:53, 19 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Environmental issues Edit

I think it is a mistake to list "environmental issues" as something specifically to be avoided. After all, I think the WMF has already considered methods of reducing the carbon footprint of its servers. In general, the mission "to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally" should include reasonable efforts to make this sustainable and universal, which can include endorsing OLPC type efforts, even dissemination of solar or other renewable power to remote communities in developing countries. Articles on Wikipedia and efforts like Wikispecies are of use to the cause of conservation, and help to improve the visibility of conservation-related efforts. For clarity, I think it is best to remove "environmental issues" from your list. Wnt (talk) 16:48, 15 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hi Wnt, your comment has me thinking. I'm reluctant in believing that we will publicly advocate environmental causes, though, as a Foundation, we obviously may take measures that are environmentally friendly, like reducing our carbon footprint. I would find it useful to hear what others may have to say on this. Thanks for raising the point. Geoffbrigham (talk) 14:59, 17 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
How about we use a different political issue (e.g. gun control, abortion) as an example instead? --Michaeldsuarez (talk) 16:02, 17 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That makes sense. WMF doesn't need to think about guns (knock on wood...) or abortion to do its mission, but it does need to consume energy and fuel and use and dispose of rare earth elements. Wnt (talk) 21:03, 17 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The most practical example I can imagine offhand would involve subsidies for photoelectric solar in remote communities in developing countries. If the national government of, say, Vanuatu starts issuing carbon credits to power companies that they can sell if they reduce their CO2 emissions, shouldn't a village chief who installs photoelectric power sufficient to light a community hall get some benefit or subsidy because he reduces local firewood, charcoal, peat, or even fossil fuel consumption? The amount of that power that actually goes to ultra-cheap laptops on which students look up stuff on Wikipedia might be minimal, but the importance for the overall reach and exchange of ideas might be substantial. I'll admit, that's a reach, but my small creativity doesn't span the world. Wnt (talk) 21:33, 17 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • I think that this is an interesting article where carbon footprints and potential regulations are involved - though admittedly, it isn't so obvious which side WMF will want to be on when the issue becomes concrete... Wnt (talk) 21:14, 24 September 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Community and "promotional use of web assets" Edit

There's a knot in this policy. As Ottava Rima (not someone I'm known to agree with!) points out above, the community should have the right to make decisions about what it does. This is acknowledged later by Geoffbrigham, who says that the non-SOPA actions didn't involve the WMF. But the text of the policy makes it sound like "We use Wikimedia website assets - such as banner space or a site black-out - to promote a policy or political cause." requires extensive WMF approval. Bbut it should be clear that if the community wants to put up a banner, just as they might do with a policy RFC, or rewrite or reformat their Main Page, this is their call, not WMF's. If abused, "web assets" could turn into everything anywhere on any project. So the policy should make clear that this extensive review for banners applies only if WMF wants to force a banner onto all or some projects that they didn't choose themselves, in response to some extraordinary situation. Wnt (talk) 21:43, 17 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The guideline does say that it "does not address independent community responses and initiatives in response to policy or political issues" in the Introduction. That said, to address your point, Wnt, I changed the language to read: "We (at WMF) employ Wikimedia website assets - such as banner space or a site black-out - to promote a policy or political cause" (emphasis added). Let me know if that doesn't work. Cheers. Geoffbrigham (talk) 07:09, 18 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, hopefully this is clear enough. Thanks. Wnt (talk) 14:01, 19 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Advisors group Edit

We would like to invite you to join the new “Advocacy Advisors Group”! The purpose of this mailing list is to provide an open venue where anyone can participate in lively discussions about political and legislative developments around the world that may affect the Wikimedia mission. If the need arises, the Wikimedia Foundation will also seek discussion and input from the members of this list regarding potential policy or political affiliations with third parties, in accordance with the Wikimedia Foundation Policy and Political Association Guideline.

If you are interested in political and policy issues, join the Advocacy Advisors Group. If you would like to become a moderator of this mailing list and help us handle spam, please email mpaulson --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 18:27, 21 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Just for the record: to join the list, please sign up at the advocacy_advisors mailing list page :-) odder (talk) 19:10, 21 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm afraid that I won't be joining this new mailing list, as I already receive far too many emails and am suffering from wiki withdrawal symptoms as a result. :( Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 21:06, 21 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Certainly, Mike, that's understandable. :) It's completely optional. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 14:43, 22 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm sort of in agreement with Mike Peel, though from a different perspective. Mdennis, could you please clarify how the, err, in your phrase, "lively discussions" will have any effect? Yet another forum about copyright, the Internet, opposing business factions, etc., seems like it wouldn't be very productive. I worry there's a few possible results - 1) Message says "WMF right!" (pat on head, used as evidence that WMF has support of community) 2) Message says "WMF wrong!" (a - called names, b - ignored). Maybe I'm too jaded after years of arguments about copyright issues. But Yet Another Mailing List gives me a sinking feeling that it would be slogging through the same material to no good outcome. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 22:54, 22 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hi, Seth Finkelstein. While it isn't my phrase (as I noted in edit summary I posted this on behalf of Michelle Paulson), I'm happy to clarify to the best of my ability. Based on my reading of the Legal and Community Advocacy/Foundation Policy and Political Association Guideline, this group is intended to be consulted for feedback and possible consensus depending on the level of community review required by a type of policy association (specific section). I would imagine that "lively discussions" will help the group provide such feedback and possible consensus. Some specific types of policy associations that mention them as a possible source of feedback are listed in the Policy and Political Associations guide. Both of your possible results seem to presuppose that the WMF will have a preferred response going in. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 14:12, 23 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks for the clarification attempt. Yes, you're correct, I did "presuppose that the WMF will have a preferred response going in.". This seems to me a mundane assumption for anything important (i.e., for my purposes, it's eminently reasonable to associate the concepts "is important" and "WMF has a preferred response"). If the list is basically about chat for things of this sort that WMF doesn't think are important (my paraphrasing!), OK, I guess that's a fair answer under the circumstances. It's not for me, but I shouldn't project my world-weariness into a general rule. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 23:48, 23 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I can understand why you might presuppose that they would be invested in the outcome, but, for comparison, I am sometimes asked to forward content issues to OTRS when people direct them to WMF not realizing that WMF doesn't curate content. I might sometimes have ways I think things should be handled (based on my years as a volunteer), but I don't have any kind of institutional "preferred response". That doesn't mean I don't think it's "important" (I'm often tasked to make sure that they get a response, so I think it's very important!), but I trust the OTRS team to do their job, even if their approach differs from what I would take myself. :) --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 17:45, 24 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Ah, but you don't think it's "important", in a sense, since e.g. I doubt a bona-fide libel complaint from someone who had the practical ability to sue, would be routed to OTRS to handle as they see fit (by which I mean decide if any action should be taken, rather than being directed from on high to fix it immediately). But we're simply disagreeing on usage of the word "important", which is obscuring the concept. It should be simple that there are cases where 1) WMF is invested in the outcome, and also 2) WMF is not invested in the outcome. Again, I was using "important" to signify case #1 as opposed to case #2. I'd say this is a reasonable (if slightly critical) usage of the word, which shouldn't be obscured by claiming it's also reasonable for you to use it for case #2 (in a difference sense). That's fine for meanings such as (hypothetically) "Every customer is important to us", but not a contradiction for my meaning of (hypothetically) "Big corporate customers are considered important as opposed to individuals". Now, I am actually trying to keep my dour disposition in check and appropriately targeted - reminding myself that e.g. if some people have a lively discussion about (not hypothetically) the use of hyphens versus dashes in articles, I shouldn't deride that even if it is far from my content interest (not hypothetically) in opposing Wikipedia as a massive defamation weapon. So, point taken on the leakage of my feelings here by using "important". Nonetheless, my perspective is concerned with what happens with the next fight where Google pretends its corporate interests are a civil-liberties issue (especially if that's in fact opposed, e.g. privacy laws which would affect Google's advertising targeting). Clarifying that the list is going to be more, in analogy, for the hyphens-vs-dashes sort of topics than preventing defamation of living people is thus helpful all around. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 23:08, 24 August 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Who drives discussions to take on an advocacy topic? Edit

The Guideline does not clarify who has agency (or social expectation) to lead a drive for a piece of advocacy. Only who needs to be consulted before taking an action. The driver could be an outsider, a long-time community member, a WMF member, an LCA liaison. SJ talk  03:39, 26 June 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree that it would be useful if the policy set up some expectations (not requirements) about who should generally lead a push for advocacy - I think it would help clarify processes and behaviors, especially at the beginning of the process (which can be time-sensitive.)
I'm not sure who those drivers should be, though, and would be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter, SJ. As a matter of pure bandwidth, WMF employees are often best positioned, and I think we'd often be happy to do it, but that can bring other baggage with it (see, for example, your red tape discussion below). Outsiders have (in my brief experience) been reluctant to engage - both because they sense it can become extremely time-consuming, and because they feel we're the "experts" and so should have ownership. (Only half-jokingly, perhaps we need a "guide to getting the wikimedia movement engaged in your advocacy action" :)
Finally, it might be good to set up some expectations for what this leadership might look like - e.g., is it enough to send an email to advocacy-advisors? Should the leader/pusher also be expected to start an RFC on meta? Something else? I get the sense from my (brief) participation that this is still completely undefined. The Guideline probably isn't the best place for this, but it feels like something should describe what sorts of activities are expected. LVilla (WMF) (talk) 17:50, 8 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I second the idea of clarifying the leadership process. In my experience once such "step-by-step" guidelines are in place, people are much more likely to get involved and will generally be less afraid of taking action.
As to who is expected to push for an advocacy position, we'd do best if we left it as open as possible. Anyone should be able to do it. That being said, I think we can expect such pushes to come from Chapters, as they are slowly beginning to become more active on the policy side. Dimi z (talk) 08:59, 11 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What requests have come in? What positions have we taken? Edit

We should track publicly the requests like this that we get. This will let us coordinate responses. It also allows gradual community discussion over time, by those who care about advocacy. Rather than the surges of advertised RfCs. (though in some cases the latter are still needed)

Is there a place on Meta that tracks the [global!] issues we are currently focused on, or discussing? SJ talk  03:39, 26 June 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Assuming by "requests like this", you mean "requests made by third-party advocacy groups to WMF to participate in advocacy", there is no such list at the moment. (They aren't that common, for what it is worth - only two that I can think of in the past four months?) I'm also not sure it makes sense - some of these organizations are trying to organize on complex issues, and would prefer not to have their issues splashed into the public eye without more control over the timeline. But perhaps we can have an internal policy of encouraging them to bring the issue to advocacy-advisors (or to some place on Meta) as part of the discussion, which would create an incomplete list of such requests? LVilla (WMF) (talk) 18:06, 8 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I am currently working on an EU policy portal, which aims at EU policy and advocacy (which is hard enough to keep track of on its own). In the longer term it will be crucial for us to have consistent positions, regardless of topic, continent and year. It would therefore be really useful to track our own history over time (and arguments used for/against). Of course, requests that come in will oftentimes be "informal" or "coalitions in the making", so it will be tricky to have them discussed publicly. But, in the end, we are a very transparent movement and our possible future partners will have to learn to learn to work with us that way if they want our support. Dimi z (talk) 09:11, 11 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

When is the WMF free to take a public stand without red tape? Edit

Do we need public discussion in order to support philosophical positions in line with our mission?

Do we need it to support any efforts and policy that strengthen free knowledge generally?

Similarly: Do we need public discussion to support efforts that strengthen...

  • open access (to scholarship)? other open-reading work that would empower any organization to implement a FooZero? (like FB Zero, WP Zero)
  • free software? free formats? free data? and cloud work? other free toolchains?
  • CC? copyright reform? expanding the public domain? other free licensing?

This is a matter of what areas of philosophical advocacy we reflexively participate in: the sorts of topics for which we would submit an amicus briefs, or write signed blog posts. I would assume that within the range of topics which {CC + Mozilla + OKFN} all fight for, there are many classes of philosophical stances that we currently proudly take; many that we would fight for if needed, and many more that we would also promote and sign on to -- to the tune of the 10 hrs/yr it takes to make a public statement.

For some of these topics, I would assume no public discussion is needed - do we need to enumerate those?
For others, such as those not clearly directly related to freely sharing knowledge, we require public discussion and agreement by our community.
For those in-between this is unclear. Nor is it clear how often discussions have to be had about clusters of related topics. SJ talk 
I would be interested to hear community feedback on this point and the following one. More flexibility in this regard would allow our advocacy efforts to be more effective, primarily by getting involved in a more timely and efficient manner. LVilla (WMF) (talk) 18:14, 8 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We had the same problem, but from the other end, so to speak. We came together in Brussels to discuss what we want to achieve, but weren't sure how far we could go without the WMF approving a specific position. I plowed through the Strategic Planning Wiki, without really finding concrete pointers. Therefore, it would be great to spark up a global community and WMF discussion as to which topics/positions we can "greenlight" globally and permanently. I have the feeling that many community members and chapters are weary of taking action, because they are afraid the WMF wouldn't approve it. As for the Brussels meeting: We decided to go for three positions which we thought have a broad consensus and are feasible within the EU:
  • Universal Freedom of Panorama
  • Government works in the public domain (as is in the US)
  • Orphan works to become usable for our projects
To see a wider list of topics we had in mind, go to the 15:30 section of the meeting minutes.
Dimi z (talk) 09:27, 11 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Can a public discussion approving a position apply to a class of positions? Edit

Say there is a public discussion for us to actively advocate for freedom of panorama in a dozen lagging countries. Starting with signing a global petition that other major organizations are party to, which is going to 20 countries with complex anti-free-panorama laws.

Can the public discussion be about "supporting freedom-of-panorama positions and policies generally"? So that, if the discussion concludes this is a good idea, any future F-of-P discussion could be supported by the WMF without further debate? SJ talk 

I think this is the only way to go. Our positions must remain consistent on a global scale, if we're to be taken seriously and to maintain an impeccable reputation. We have global projects aimed at the world, we can't afford different reasonings depending on the region. Additionally this will make workflows and actions much easier for community and chapters. Dimi z (talk) 09:16, 11 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Anchor for "Promotional Use of Website Assets" section Edit


  1. insert anchor for "Promotional Use of Website Assets" section. This is needed for links from CentralNotice/Usage guidelines ("Advocacy" section).
  2. add empty line after <!--T:16--> (for separating translation item)

Current code:

=== Promotional Use of Website Assets === <!--T:16-->
We (at WMF) employ Wikimedia website assets - such as banner space or a site black-out - to promote a policy or political cause.

Proposed code:

=== Promotional Use of Website Assets === <!--T:16-->

We (at WMF) employ Wikimedia website assets - such as banner space or a site black-out - to promote a policy or political cause.

--Kaganer (talk) 11:50, 30 June 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Improve markup around References Edit

Please also improve markup around Reference tag.

Current code:

This guideline addresses when and how the Wikimedia Foundation (“WMF”) should associate itself publicly on policy and political issues consistent with its [[Foundation:Mission statement|mission]]. Policy and political issues include public support for or against proposed laws and executive actions, online backing for political initiatives, and partnerships with organizations to promote shared policy and political positions. This guideline covers requests to and actions by the WMF; it does not address independent community responses and initiatives in response to policy or political issues.<ref>This guideline is intended to cover only policy and political associations. It does not govern commercial and organizational relationships outside the policy and political context where the WMF is entering into a contractual relationship and allowing use of WMF trademarks for limited purposes in furtherance of the purposes of the contract. For example, a contract with a mobile company to provide users access to Wikipedia for free may allow the mobile company to display the Wikimedia logo in its promotion of services. This arrangement would not fall under the scope of this guideline.

WMF reserves the right to deviate from this policy depending on the circumstances.  The General Counsel must approve any such deviation.</ref>

Proposed code:

This guideline addresses when and how the Wikimedia Foundation (“WMF”) should associate itself publicly on policy and political issues consistent with its [[Foundation:Mission statement|mission]]. Policy and political issues include public support for or against proposed laws and executive actions, online backing for political initiatives, and partnerships with organizations to promote shared policy and political positions. This guideline covers requests to and actions by the WMF; it does not address independent community responses and initiatives in response to policy or political issues.</translate><ref><translate>This guideline is intended to cover only policy and political associations. It does not govern commercial and organizational relationships outside the policy and political context where the WMF is entering into a contractual relationship and allowing use of WMF trademarks for limited purposes in furtherance of the purposes of the contract. For example, a contract with a mobile company to provide users access to Wikipedia for free may allow the mobile company to display the Wikimedia logo in its promotion of services. This arrangement would not fall under the scope of this guideline.</translate>
WMF reserves the right to deviate from this policy depending on the circumstances.  The General Counsel must approve any such deviation.</translate></ref>

--Kaganer (talk) 12:19, 30 June 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Return to "Legal/Foundation Policy and Political Association Guideline" page.