ESEAP Conference 2018/Program/Public Policy

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Jan Gerlach (WMF)

Length (min)


Audience / Target group
Session Format

Question and Answer


Desired Outcome

Collecting questions from contributors in the ESEAP region regarding recent issues of public policy in their respective countries.


This session is led by Jan Gerlach, Public Policy Manager, Wikimedia Foundation. The format of the session is Questions & Answers, where Jan has several questions concerning public policy issues for Wikimedians in ESEAP in the interest of better understanding the overview condition of the region.

The session is titled "Public policy for Wikimedia". However, the aim of the session is not to discuss about policy on Wikipedia but about current laws and regulations that fosters or threatens free knowledge. Most people misunderstood that public policy for Wikimedia would revolves only around copyright issues but also about creating positive environment for free knowledge.

We are working on five fields of public policy.

  1. Content: copyright, or public domain.
  2. Users: access to knowledge, censorship privacy, what information is public and not public.
  3. Freedom of expression and censorship.
  4. Privacy issues: how could people contribute privately to Wikipedia?
  5. Platforms: infrastructure and servers (intermediary liability protection, means WMF cannot be held liable for content produced by volunteers).

These are the issues of public policy.

Looking from San Fransisco, there are three major trends in ESEAP, namely:

  • New laws against misinformation or fake news on the internet. In the internet, information spreads quickly. The problem with these laws, even if it is good intented, is WHO decides what is true? What if the government just want to suppress criticism?
  • The establishment of cyber agencies that control information flow targeting extremism, terrorist content and similar issue resulting in high surveillance on what people are sharing with each other through apps. What if one of the agencies document the terrorist content? Will they be shut down or controlled? In Vietnam, the cyber agency is manpower heavy institution with around 10,000 people monitoring content on social media.
  • Prohibition of privacy enhancing technologies and circumvention tools like encryption, VPNs, etc. This is a problem for people who want to write about controversial issues.

Based on these trends, here are the questions for Wikimedians in ESEAP:

  1. What other public policy trends do you see?
  2. What are the most important issues for Wikimedia in ESEAP?
  3. What laws are the communities trying to change?
  4. How can WMF support you?


  • In Australia, they monitor who writes and what is written in Wikipedia related to South China Sea’s border. This is an area within English Wikipedia where there are people who monitors dan prevents controversial subjects or subjects with competing interests (like borders) to be too controversials. Since on English Wikipedia all nations come together then all problems are alson in a melting pot.
  • In India, there is a law against depicting the country’s border. This might be a problem if we want to show a map of India on Wikipedia. A lot of different interests come together. Countries are trying to enforce their own laws globally.
  • A lot of countries does not have freedom of panaroma. Photos of buildings are relative to copyright. In France, there is controversies. In Russia, the laws changed after push from Wikimedia’s part. Jan's experience working with the European community, different countries have different success rate in pushing the freedom of panorama policy. France is successful. South Africa is successful. Ghana’s on policy maker agenda. While in South America, the issue of freedom of panorama is not that much of a concern.

What we found as successful approach is connect wikipedians from other countries so there will be sharing, and templates could be used.

  • The cyber agencies are trying to paint a different picture than the truth. There is internet brigade or cyber troopers in Singapore who are people employed by certain organisation or government to plant fake news.
  • There is a lack of trust with the government, huge traffic to politicians articles during election period, and many vandals.
  • There are new regulations around the world regarding fake news and many platform reacts quickly to fake news.
  • In Brazil, there is a bill that, thankfully did not passed, that allows take down of criticism about a certain political candidate.
  • In Indonesia, there is a recent law called UU ITE (Laws on Information and Electronic Transaction) which can be used by people who feel that anything written about them on the internet is a smear campaign, the sued party could get up to several years in prison. There were at least two cases where people go to prison under this law because they are writing on social media something about high-level people (politician or businessmen) that they doesn’t like (criticism, etc).
  • Taking Turkey Wikipedia as example, there were legal approach through the courts and social media approach through Facebook banners to show sympathy. However, this is not resolved yet.
  • With the recent trends and regulations, government have more power to block websites. In Indonesia, reddit is blocked due to its pornographic contents under the Pornographic Law.
  • Freedom of speech is blocked in Chinese Wikipedians. People were detained by the government without legal support. Editors in mainland changed their online identity to manuvers the government censorship.
  • Questions from participants:
  1. "What kind of support could the WMF give to the communities facing public policy problems?" WMF could support by connecting one community with the other facing similar problem so there could be an exchange of experience, knowledge, and best practices so that one successful approach in a certain community could be shared with the others.
  2. If we are only small entities or usergroups, how could we have a voice against the government? Remember that although we are small but the projects we are doing are big. Again, WMF could connect them with other groups who have been successful in doing similar things.
  3. The Wikimedia Movement supports knowledge as service but how do we deal with business that treats information as commodity?
  4. How about editors who do edits that could be threatening for them, can they be given legal support? There is Community Legal Defense program by WMF. First successful case was in Greece where a Wikipedia sued by the minister. This is a measure to support editors.