Misdirected requests to movement organizations for user data and content takedown

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The Wikimedia Foundation (“WMF”) is the non-profit organization that operates and hosts all Wikimedia sites, including Wikipedia, the largest online encyclopedia. There are many local, independently operated organizations within the Wikimedia movement, such as chapters, thematic organizations, movement partners, and user groups (collectively, “movement organizations”). These independent movement organizations operate to help promote the Wikimedia 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."

The Issue: Receiving improper requests for user data or content take down[edit]

Movement organizations may be contacted by local authorities, individuals or corporations requesting user information, or the alteration or removal of content on Wikimedia sites. However, movement organizations are not granted access to user information and cannot guarantee the permanent alteration or removal of Wikimedia-site content in response to a third-party demand. Only the Wikimedia Foundation - as the operator and host of the Wikimedia sites - has the authority to respond to these types of official requests. The following information provides chapters with the Foundation's initial position on how to handle official requests. Please see our legal disclaimer for more information.

The Solution: Redirecting inquiries for user data and content take down to WMF[edit]

To resolve the common misconceptions regarding movement organizations, local authorities, individuals and corporations contacting movement organizations about user data and site content should be informed that:

  • Movement organizations are independent legal entities. The role of movement organizations is to independently promote the Wikimedia mission within a particular geographical region or with regards to a particular topic without specific direction from or control by WMF. Movement organizations are separate legal entities within the larger Wikimedia movement. WMF has no ownership over movement organizations, as they are not subsidiaries of WMF. Movement organizations support the mission in various ways by organizing local events like edit-a-thons and hackathons to engage local users (or “community members”), participating in partnerships with institutions for content liberation through projects like GLAM, and coordinating local competitions like Wiki Loves Monuments.
  • Movement organizations do not have legal control or responsibility over content on Wikimedia sites. Content on Wikimedia sites is created and curated, without direction from WMF or any particular movement organization, by community members from all over the world. This content is then hosted on WMF’s servers in the United States where WMF fulfills its role in maintaining the sites and dealing with authorities about data and content. Movement organizations promote the use and development of the WMF-hosted Wikimedia sites, but they do not have physical or legal control over the servers or content on the website and therefore, cannot alter or remove content at the request of a third party.
  • Movement organizations do not have access to user information. User data that is collected on Wikimedia sites in accordance with the WMF privacy policy is stored on WMF servers located in the United States. Consequently, only Wikimedia staff and certain volunteers have the authority to provide user information to authorities, so local authorities must contact WMF’s registered agent or WMF’s legal team by emailing legal@wikimedia.org to obtain access to user information.
  • All official requests (i.e. subpoenas, court orders, etc.) for user data or content alteration or removal must be sent to WMF’s registered agent. This is the only way to ensure the WMF Legal Department receives the official request and to ensure that the authority receives complete and accurate data. Oral requests or questions from an officer or individual may be directed to WMF’s legal team by emailing legal@wikimedia.org.

Please remember[edit]

Movement organizations share in the WMF mission of making the sum of all knowledge readily accessible by everyone, but they do not share the legal responsibility of hosting the Wikimedia sites. Only WMF independently operates and hosts all Wikimedia sites. As a result, WMF is the sole entity legally authorized to release user data and the sole entity responsible for hosting content content appearing on the sites. Please see below for standardized language you may send in response to requests for user data or content alteration/removal. Feel free to contact the WMF with any additional questions you may have.

Standard text movement organizations may send third parties requesting user data[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation operates and hosts Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites worldwide. In contrast, we are a local entity, which is a stand-alone, independent organization formed by local people who use Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. We are not governed, owned, or operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. We are not a subsidiary or owned affiliate of the WMF and have no responsibility with respect to running Wikipedia or other Wikimedia sites, nor do we have access to user information. The Wikimedia Foundation is the appropriate entity to direct all official requests for user information to ensure you are receiving complete and accurate information. You can contact them at:

Registered Agent
Wikimedia Foundation
c/o CT Corporation System
818 West Seventh Street
Los Angeles, California 90017, United States
WMF Contact: Legal Department
Email: legal@wikimedia.org - preferred method of contact
Phone: +1 (415) 839-6885
Facsimile: +1 (415) 882-0495
Mailing Address: 149 New Montgomery St., Floor 6, San Francisco, California 94105, United States

We understand that the Wikimedia Foundation usually requires a U.S. subpoena before it releases user information, but we encourage you to review their request for user information procedures and guidelines before talking to them directly to understand their processes.

Standard text movement organizations may send third parties seeking content alteration/removal[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation operates and hosts Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites worldwide. In contrast, we are a local entity, which is a stand-alone, independent organization formed by local people who use Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. We are not governed, owned, or operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. We are not a subsidiary or owned affiliate of the WMF and have no responsibility with respect to running Wikipedia or other Wikimedia sites, nor do we have authority to permanently alter or remove the content appearing on Wikimedia sites. The content on all Wikimedia sites is created and curated by volunteer contributors and editors from all around the world that do not act at the direction or under the influence of us or the Wikimedia Foundation. If you still have questions regarding content removal, please direct your correspondence to the Wikimedia Foundation who will be better able to resolve your questions:

WMF Contact: Legal Department
Email: legal@wikimedia.org - preferred method of contact
Phone: +1 (415) 839-6885
Facsimile: +1 (415) 882-0495
Mailing Address: 149 New Montgomery St., Floor 6, San Francisco, California 94105, United States

We encourage you to talk to them directly to understand their processes.