Wikimedia Foundation Human Rights Impact Assessment

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Human Rights Impact Assessment (English)
Wikimedia Foundation HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (Arabic)
Wikimedia Foundation HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (Chinese (Traditional))
Wikimedia Foundation HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (French)
Wikimedia Foundation HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (Russian)
Wikimedia Foundation HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (Spanish)

Introduction[edit]

This Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) report was commissioned by the Wikimedia Foundation in 2020 to understand human rights risks related to Wikimedia projects and identify opportunities to address and mitigate those risks.

The Wikimedia movement has an interconnected role with human rights. Fundamentally, our projects help enable access to knowledge for every single person as a critical human right. But the very process of curating, sharing, and contributing knowledge also has implications for fundamental rights centered around free expression, privacy, and equity, among others. This Human Rights Impact Assessment aims to examine these impacts, and offer potential actions for the Foundation to better respect and advance human rights.

This report was published in July 2022 as part of our commitment to transparency and to invite feedback from volunteers on how the Foundation should proceed with the recommendations made in the report. By publishing this report, the Foundation is inviting both Wikimedia movement stakeholders as well as the broader human rights movement to participate in this conversation, and to hold the Foundation accountable to its human rights commitments, as described in the introduction to our Human Rights Policy.

What is a human rights impact assessment?[edit]

Human Rights Impact Assessments help identify and consider potential responses to human rights risks for a company, organization, project, policy, or agreement. They often engage those who are the subject of potential risks and build on other due diligence processes within an organization. There is a growing expectation for companies, including online platforms, to conduct and publish HRIAs as part of their due diligence processes.

How and when was the assessment conducted?[edit]

The assessment was carried out in 2020 by Article One, a specialized strategy and management consultancy with expertise in human rights, responsible innovation, and sustainability. Article One delivered its report to the Foundation in July 2020. The assessment included a desk review of public and private information on the Foundation and Wikimedia projects, as well as interviews with Foundation staff and six leading external experts in human rights. The findings of the report were then validated with six volunteers from around the world.

What does the assessment include?[edit]

The assessment includes:

  • A foreword, providing greater context for the assessment, how human rights intersect with the Wikimedia vision, and steps the Foundation has taken to advance human rights since the report was submitted
  • An executive summary of the report
  • A more detailed analysis of the five categories of human rights risks identified in the report
  • Recommendations for the Foundation to respond to human rights risks

The foreword and executive summary of the HRIA are available in Arabic, Chinese (Traditional), French, Russian, and Spanish.

Article One and the Foundation have redacted some elements of the assessment to protect the identities and safety of Foundation staff and volunteers as well as to limit information that bad actors could use to exploit Wikimedia projects. With that said, the Foundation and Article One have worked to maintain as much of the original integrity of the report as possible.

Why is the report being published now (in 2022)?[edit]

Unfortunately, due to capacity constraints and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, publication of this report has been significantly delayed. However, the Foundation has continued moving forward on important human rights work in the two years since the report was submitted. The Foundation has taken steps (more information below) to advance human rights work that aligned with existing organizational priorities, including some recommendations made in the human rights impact assessment.

What work has the Foundation done to respond to the report’s findings and recommendations since it was submitted?[edit]

Over the past two years, the Foundation has strengthened its capacity to respond to recommendations in the report and, where feasible, moved forward on recommendations from the HRIA that were already aligned with organization priorities and other project roadmaps.

Key steps include:

  • Developing a Universal Code of Conduct: In 2020, the Foundation began the process of co-developing a Universal Code of Conduct for all Wikimedia projects with the movement. The Universal Code of Conduct was approved by the Board of Trustees in February 2021, and enforcement guidelines for this policy are currently under development.
  • Investing in greater human rights expertise at the Foundation: The Foundation has established several new roles—including a Human Rights Lead, Human Rights fellows, Vice President of Global Advocacy, and a Senior Human Rights Advocacy Manager—to bring on individuals with expertise in human rights and establish better processes to respond to human rights risks to our projects. These positions are complemented by a newly-developed Human Rights Steering Committee, composed of senior-level leaders from across the Foundation, which is responsible for coordinating the high-level development and implementation of the Foundation’s Human Rights Policy and other due diligence practices.
  • Strengthening human rights resources and best practices for the movement: Starting in 2021 and continuing in 2022, Foundation staff with human rights expertise have established better channels and mechanisms for volunteers and affiliates to report human rights concerns to staff who are able to take action and respond to threats. Staff have also helped train at-risk volunteers on digital security skills and best practices, including through one-on-one consultations and the development of a multilingual toolkit, so that these volunteers can better protect their privacy and safety online. Lastly, Foundation staff have advanced work with the Voices Under Threat program to develop both regular community office hours as well as multilingual online resources that are dedicated to digital security.
  • Approving a Human Rights Policy: The Foundation developed a Human Rights Policy, which was approved by the Board of Trustees in December 2021. This policy commits the Foundation to four key activities necessary for addressing and mitigating human rights risks, including:
    • Conducting ongoing human rights due diligence
    • Tracking and publicly reporting on our efforts to meet our human rights commitment
    • Using our influence with partners, the private sector, and governments to advance and uphold respect for human rights
    • Providing access to effective remedies when harms have occurred
  • Engaging the community: The Foundation launched a series of public and private dialogues in May 2022 across various communities and Foundation staff to better understand the needs of community members facing human rights challenges as well as how the implementation of the Human Rights Policy can support those needs.
  • Continuing human rights due diligence: Following the submission of the HRIA report, the Foundation commissioned two additional human rights impact assessments, including a child rights impact assessment in April 2022, and a product-level human rights impact assessment in May 2022. The Foundation will also publish these reports.
  • Mitigating the impacts of disinformation: Disinformation has been an area of interest and concern for the Foundation, even before the HRIA was conducted. This is a sentiment we know is shared by many across the movement. We have made investments at the Foundation to better support volunteers in understanding, identifying, and responding to the unique ways disinformation can impact our projects. Some of this work includes hiring staff with expertise in handling disinformation across cultural contexts, conducting research and investigations to better understand the ways disinformation can show up on our projects, supporting volunteers in monitoring content that could be the subject of disinformation, and developing new tools to make disinformation response easier and more efficient. Informed by these experiences, the Foundation is working to develop an institutional strategy to address disinformation on Wikimedia projects, and has strengthened its advocacy efforts to promote public policies addressing disinformation online.

Looking forward (July 2022)[edit]

Much work remains to be done to address the risks identified in this assessment and to live up to the commitments outlined in the Foundation’s Human Rights Policy. In the short term, the Foundation will continue the work outlined above, including a child rights impact assessment we started in April 2022, and a product-level human rights impact assessment which began in May 2022. To inform our long-term commitment to human rights, we invite members of the movement to ask questions, provide feedback, and discuss the recommendations of the report on this discussion page to determine which recommendations the Foundation should pursue next.

We hope that the findings of the HRIA will support members of the broader Wikimedia movement in understanding the nature of the human rights risks and threats that we jointly face, and help inform the work and challenging discussions required to mitigate those risks and protect members of our communities.

How can I provide feedback?[edit]

We welcome questions, comments, and feedback on the report and its recommendations on this discussion page. Representatives of the Global Advocacy team will also participate in the 14 July meeting of the Community Affairs Committee to discuss this report and answer questions.

In addition to these spaces, the Global Advocacy team has begun to host monthly community conversation hours. We will be giving an update on this report and our work around the Human Rights Policy during our conversation hours on 28 July at 12:00 and 17:00 UTC. We invite volunteers to join these calls to ask questions and share their feedback on this assessment.

The Global Advocacy and Human Rights team will also facilitate discussions on this report and the Foundation’s broader human rights commitments on the Movement Strategy Forum platform and during future Wikimedia events.

If you prefer to share feedback privately to protect your identity or limit potential human rights risks to yourself or others, you can also reach our team at policy@wikimedia.org.