On April 25, 2017 the Wikimedia Foundation gathered a group of influential European policy makers, activists and organizers to discuss the future of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia movement. Over dinner, a three hour conversation unfolded driven by the topic question for the evening, “How are the current trends in policy going to affect the future of free knowledge?” A list of attendees and high-level notes/key insights are below.
- Maarten Deneckere (User: MADE), Wikipedian
- David Hammerstein, Commons Network
- Gwen Franck, Personal Capacity
- Dimi Dimitrov, Wikimedia Foundation
- Christopher Henner, Wikimedia Foundation
- Joe McNamee, EDRI
- Fanny Hidvegi, AccessNow
- Katherine Maher, Wikimedia Foundation
- Caitlin Virtue, Wikimedia Foundation
- Anonymous Attendee
- Anonymous Attendee
- Worrying trends
- Fear is limiting our possibilities. People recognize the opportunities but are prevented by fear.
- Policy is creating incentives toward control and preventing and/or enabling litigation. This regulation and control will limit growth.
- The question we should be asking is “How effective is a policy?”
- “We seem to be always doomed to be a few steps behind what is happening in the field.” There is a pattern of regulating modern technology with out of date policy.
- And also, enacting policy is one thing, but enforcing it, and enforcing it well/effectively, is another thing.
- Are human rights and democracy a globally shared value? We (some of the Western World) assume that the rule of law is written in stone. People in the Eastern EU might remind us that it’s not.
- The rise of cut and paste policy making is a concern, but perhaps will not proliferate. South Africa and South America often follow the lead that EU policy sets out, but Japan may start to take their own path. It’s still too early to say if this trend will continue to play out in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
- Transparency in decision-making is crucial.
- It’s currently lacking and potentially decreasing. Many decisions are currently made behind closed doors or the outcomes of a discussion are pre-determined before the discussion begins.
- Lack of a clear path towards EU legislation makes it difficult to get the general public engaged with the process.
- There’s an incentive to be seen as attempting to solve the problem instead of actually solving the problem.
- Evidence-based solutions are crucial. We should avoid using big data to justify a pre-determined plan.
- Also, current events (e.g. terrorism) can drive unrealistic timelines for policy development
- Free & Open
- We believe that making knowledge and systems free and open is the first step. But what is the 2nd step? And does that next step help regenerate the Commons? We should always be asking “what is the public return on public investment?”
- There is an erroneous perception that there is a scarcity of things that are actually abundant. In reality, Some natural resources and commercial goods are scarce, but knowledge is abundant.
- We are suffering from an absence of leadership and vision in this area.
- Our challenge is to connect policy to human concerns.
- Philanthropy can have a significant positive impact: Gates Foundation policy of open access results of all the research they fund.
- Glimmers of Hope
- Academic Spring pushed the commission and publishers.
- Small positive movements in intellectual property rights, energy, and urban gardening are encouraging. These changes are permitting more people to use available technology of improve their local communities.
- Positive changes at the country or state/province levels.
- What else can (or should) the Wikimedia movement do?
- Contribute to SPARC, the EU open access platform (something from Wikimedia Foundation directly?)
- Wikimedia Foundation needs to show the impact of our work and the policies we support.
- One way: “add more reality” to the public discourse on these topics: How do these policies affect people at street level? The Wikimedia Foundation needs to put forth better arguments for why openness is important. Make a stronger connection between the the way the internet is regulated and real world problems.
- Another way: highlight the narrative of “The internet as a universal, free service, where Decentralization, Participation, and Privacy are at direct odds with the people and companies attempting to exploit the internet for their commercial interests.
- Wikimedia Foundation should be aware of EU policies currently under debate and their potential effects, and should work to mobilize our communities to actions.
- There’s a distrust between industry and government(s). Could Wikimedia Foundation help surface and highlight high quality information that could break that distrust down?
- Focus on the grassroots part of your DNA.
- Wikimedia Foundation has not traditionally focused on the role of the content: how does the simple fact that we are able to function as an organization benefit the world.
- The EU needs to allow for pro-innovation policies, not prescriptive policies that supposedly address the concerns of the day. The Wikimedia Foundation could help advocate for those kind of policies.
- Wikimedia cannot just be a repository -- if you don’t go beyond just holding the knowledge, we all will have lost an opportunity.
- Question: Is is possible to have a global, open internet without a global set of rules? Or at least a network of rules that work with each other (ie copyright and university research). They may have different approaches, but share similar goals
- Everyone should be able to participate in everything the internet has to offer without risking their human rights. How can Wikimedia Foundation help make that reality?
Messages for Wikimedia
What’s the one message from tonight’s dinner you’d like the Wikimedia movement to know for our future?
- Anonymous - “Please tell the Wikimedia story more by empowering your community to speak up and make issues policy makers discuss from a theoretical point of view come to life.”
- David Hammerstein - “Defend the open knowledge commons and correct the collection of knowledge with social and environmental objectives.”
- Gwen Franck - “ Wikimedia is a powerhouse, possessing the advantage of actually being very popular as well. This offers a unique opportunity to be aspirational, either as a funder or as a policy maker. Make use of this more for the next 15 years as you have done in the past!”
- Fanny Hidvegi - “To achieve our goals, the open internet and digital rights, we need your voice and message to be heard, and your active participation in the battle that will contribute to the enforcement and enjoyment of society’s rights online.”
- Anonymous - “Speak up more on behalf of your users and community! Simply sharing your experiences with EU policy makers has a tremendously positive impact.”