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Sign the Petition for Free Access to Wikipedia on Cellphones

Today we are pleased to announce that the Wikimedia Foundation is launching a petition for free access to Wikipedia on mobile phones, accompanied by the short documentary film, Knowledge for Everyone.

In November 2012, a group of high schoolers from Joe Slovo Park township in South Africa wrote and posted an open letter on Facebook, requesting that mobile carriers in South Africa grant free access to Wikipedia on mobile phones so that they could use Wikipedia’s articles to support their schoolwork and contribute to their education. The class had read about Wikipedia Zero; a Wikimedia Foundation program that works with mobile carriers to waive data charges that normally come with accessing Wikipedia on mobile phones. We first heard about the efforts of the class in February of 2013; soon after, I went with filmmaker Charlene Music to Cape Town, to hear the students’ story in person, and capture their request on camera.

In October 2013, we published a video of the students reading the open letter that they had written. On February 14, 2014, one of the mobile carriers mentioned in the letter, MTN South Africa, responded with their own video announcing that they would grant free access to Wikipedia in South Africa to MTN users via the Opera Mini browser. What a Valentine’s day present! Everyone was excited by MTN South Africa’s decision.

Many people talk about the consequences of the global digital divide, or the gap between the quality and availability of digital access in the global north versus the global south. (Vint Cerf recently addressed the issue on The Colbert Report). However, there are few examples of stories that humanize this gap. It’s often hard to show the direct impact of knowledge on an individual or a community, and big numbers and statistics lose the personal truth of the story. Knowledge for Everyone is a chance for the world to see what free access to Wikipedia can mean, through the experience of the students of Sinenjongo High School.

The petition that we’re publishing along with the documentary is a way for you to do something about helping make the world’s free knowledge available for everyone. When you sign this petition, you can tell us what free access to Wikipedia could mean to you or your community. This way, when the Wikimedia Foundation talks with mobile carriers all around the world, we can share your message. They’ll be able to hear, in your words, why access to free knowledge is a powerful tool.

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Africa’s first Regional Conference gathers Wikimedians in Johannesburg

Wiki Indaba 2014

Group photo

Conference memorabilia

This past June, Wikimedia South Africa hosted more than 35 Wikimedians in Johannesburg for the first ever Wiki Indaba Regional Conference. All four regions of Africa were represented by at least one country, with West Africa having the lion’s share. For three days we talked about the challenges and possible solutions for initiating Wikipedia editing communities in the continent, in an effort to fulfill our vision of sharing the sum of all human knowledge with the world.

We left the conference with a renewed sense of purpose and a united goal to create Wikipedia editing communities in our respective countries through clear communication channels and co-operation plans, even though we were well reminded that we don’t have a magic wand to accomplish this overnight.

The first day was spent listening to delegates recounting community efforts in their home countries, the unique challenges they face as well as their future plans. We learned how group dynamics and diversity helped Tunisia acquire their status as a newly recognized African user group. From Egypt we heard about how universities are responding to Wikipedia. From Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon we learned of local efforts from WiR at the Africa Centre and how they are linking up with local academic and art institutions to expose the public to Wikipedia. We learned of grass root efforts in Ghana and Nigeria where they’ve actively reached out to schools and the general public. We heard how difficult it is to arrange events without the approval of local authorities. From Cameroon we learned how Wiki Loves Monuments improved acceptance of Wikipedia. From Ethiopia we learned about the dangers faced by bloggers and how Wikipedia is often mistaken for Wikileaks. We learned how some Wikipedians have actually been incarcerated for blogging. Representatives from Malawi and Tanzania discussed how Wikipedians are fusing their entrepreneurial skills with open knowledge. From Kenya we learned of efforts to regroup and pursue chapter status. We learned of the efforts of university students to build a community in Botswana. Namibia highlighted its renewed effort to experiment on oral citations as a way to create acceptance of local and indigenous knowledge through Wikipedia. We explored the efforts made in South Africa, which still is the only chapter in the continent. At the end of the day, we reviewed statistics of African language Wikipedias and gathered as many insights as possible. The day was completed with a presentation on the Wikimedia Foundation’s global south strategy and how it is poised to assist communities throughout the continent.

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Expanding local history with The Wikipedia Library

Find out more about The Wikipedia Library!

If you are an editor on the English Wikipedia, you might have noticed the recent uptick in announcements for accounts offered by The Wikipedia Library! The Wikipedia Library gives active, experienced Wikipedia editors free access to a wide range of paywalled databases – reliable sources that are vital for their work (see also: “The Wikipedia Library Strives for Open Access“). We have been having a lot of success meeting the goals of our Individual Engagement Grant from the Wikimedia Foundation. Established partnerships, like that with JSTOR, are expanding, getting Wikipedia editors more access to high quality research materials! Moreover, because of those successes, we are having many fruitful discussions with organizations large and small that are interested in helping Wikipedians create public knowledge and link Wikipedia in to the larger network of scholarly source materials.

We surveyed Wikipedia users interested in the Wikipedia Library about which sources would be best for us to get access to, and one from that list, British Newspaper Archive, has been a very active recent success. It started with 50 accounts and has since expanded to 100 because of the enthusiasm in the initial sign-up period. An archive of high-quality scans of newspapers from the collection of the British Library, it provides a great source of reference materials for Wikipedia articles about 18th, 19th, and early 20th century Britain and its global interests. Even though the accounts have only been available for a couple of weeks, Wikipedians have been successfully using them to create new and expand old articles about historical topics, both about local history and topics of national British interest. These range from articles about geographical features (Swithland Reservoir) to sports (1884 FA Cup Final and Jack Kid Berg), coal mines (Pendleton Colliery) to politicians (Sewallis Shirley).

User:Sitush’s experience

As part of our partnership with the British Newspaper Archive, they have offered us an opportunity to talk about improving Wikipedia on their blog, highlighting the success of the account donation. More importantly though, it enables us to communicate to their social media audience – researchers investigating historical topics through old newspapers – how Wikipedians motivated by similar interests are able to use that research to provide knowledge to our vast audience. Here is what one of our Wikipedia editors who got access through this partnership, User:Sitush, shared on their blog about his new account:

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Victory in Italy: Court rules Wikipedia “a service based on the freedom of the users”

This post is available in 2 languages:
English Italiano

English

Update: We received notification on 23 July 2014 that the same court has rejected the Angeluccis’ claims against Wikimedia Italia and has awarded the chapter €17,000 in expenses. The court further ruled that Wikimedia Italia has no corporate relationship with the Wikimedia Foundation, nor does it own or manage the Wikimedia sites. We congratulate Wikimedia Italia on this well-earned victory.

Last week, the Wikimedia community obtained a resounding victory in Italian court. For more than four years, the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Italia [1] had been involved in a lawsuit initiated by Italian politician Antonio Angelucci and his son, Giampaolo. The Angeluccis were seeking €20,000,000 from the Wikimedia Foundation over allegedly defamatory statements appearing on two Italian-language Wikipedia pages.

The Roman Civil Tribunal handed down its ruling [in Italian] on 9 July, 2014 with respect to the Wikimedia Foundation, dismissing the lawsuit and declaring that the Foundation is not legally responsible for content that users freely upload onto the Wikimedia projects. The victory, however, runs deeper than the case at hand. The judgment is the first full consideration of Wikimedia’s standing in Italy,[2] and the ruling itself paves the way for more robust free speech protections on the Internet under Italian law.

The Angeluccis argued that the Wikipedia pages for Antonio Angelucci and for the Italian-language newspaper Il Riformista contained false statements that supposedly harmed their reputations according to their claims. Generally, the European Union’s E-Commerce Directive limits the liability of hosting providers for content that users upload; however, the Angeluccis asserted that Wikimedia Foundation’s activities were more akin to a content provider and that no exemption of liability according to the Directive would apply or at least Wikipedia should be deemed as an “online journal” and thus the Foundation should be liable under the stricter standards that apply to the Italian press.

The Italian court rejected this argument, stating that while the Directive does not directly apply to the Wikimedia Foundation as a non-EU-based organization, the basic principles of the Directive apply. In compliance with such principles, Wikimedia must be recognized to be a hosting provider, as opposed to a content provider, and thus it can be liable for user generated content only if it gets explicit notice of illicit information by the competent authority and fails to remove it.

The court stated that Wikipedia “offers a service which is based on the freedom of the users to draft the various pages of the encyclopedia; it is such freedom that excludes any [obligation to guarantee the absence of offensive content on its sites] and which finds its balance in the possibility for anybody to modify contents and ask for their removal.” The court went on to state that the Foundation was very clear in its disclaimers about its neutral role in the creation and maintenance of content, further noting that anyone, even the Angeluccis themselves, could have modified the articles in question.

Lively discussions and even disagreements about content are a natural outgrowth of creating the world’s largest free encyclopedia. However, the vast majority of these editorial debates can be and are resolved every day through processes established and run by dedicated members of the Wikimedia community. We strongly encourage those who have concerns about content on the Wikimedia projects to explore these community procedures rather than resorting to litigation.

Attempts to impose liability upon neutral hosting platforms — our modern day public forums — threaten the very existence of those platforms, and stifle innovation and free speech along the way. When the need arises, the Wikimedia Foundation will not hesitate to defend the world’s largest repository of human knowledge against those who challenge the Wikimedia community’s right to speak, create, and share freely.[3]

Michelle Paulson, Legal Counsel

Geoff Brigham, General Counsel

The Wikimedia Foundation would like to express its immense appreciation towards the incredibly talented attorneys at Hogan Lovells, who represented the Foundation in this matter, particularly Marco Berliri, Marta Staccioli, and Massimiliano Masnada. Special thanks also goes to Joseph Jung (Legal Intern), who assisted with this blog post.

Note: While this decision represents important progress towards protecting hosting providers like the Wikimedia Foundation, it is equally important to remember that every individual is legally responsible for his or her actions both online and off. For your own protection, you should exercise caution and avoid contributing any content to the Wikimedia projects that may result in criminal or civil liability under the laws of the United States or any country that may claim jurisdiction over you. For more information, please see our Terms of Use and Legal Policies.

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Recovering the shared history editing Wikipedia in Argentina, Mexico and Spain

This post is available in 3 languages:
English  •  Spanish Catalan

English

The Spanish Republican Exile forced thousands of Spanish citizens to leave their country after the Spanish Civil War and the aftermath of persecutions by the Francisco Franco dictatorship. Nearly 220,000 supporters of the Second Republic left Spain to other countries like Argentina and Mexico.

Attendants at the edit-a-thon

To mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Sinaia vessel to the Mexican port of Veracruz, the Wikimedia chapters in Argentina, Spain and Mexico ran ​​the First Spanish Republican Exile Edit-a-thon of Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and Wikisource on historical facts, biographies and testimonials related to these events.

The coordination of this event was conducted by the Iberocoop initiative. The event in Mexico City was held at the Space X of Cultural Center of Spain in Mexico. This edit-a-thon was curated by Guiomar López Acevedo, historian of the Spanish Ateneo of Mexico, who contributed sources and reviews for the activity. At the opening, Macarena Pérez, staff of the Cultural Center of Spain, said that the Spanish exile is a prolific theme and many more working sessions will be needed to retrieve all available evidence.

At around 2 pm local time in Mexico, Santiago Navarro Sanz, member of the board of Wikimedia Spain, joined in a videoconference from Vila-real and saluted the participants and noted that he was happy that a hard episode in Spanish history is a positive reason to gather Wikipedians in three countries and contribute to the growth of information on Wikimedia projects.

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Wiki Loves Pride 2014 and Adding Diversity to Wikipedia

Logo for the proposed user group Wikimedia LGBT

Since Wikipedia’s gender gap first came to light in late 2010, Wikipedians have taken the issue to heart, developing projects with a focus on inclusivity in content, editorship and the learning environments relevant to new editors. 

Wiki Loves Pride started from conversations among Wikipedians editing LGBT topics in a variety of fields, including history, popular culture, politics and medicine, and supporters of Wikimedia LGBT - a proposed user group which promotes the development of LGBT-related content on Wikimedia projects in all languages and encourages LGBT organizations to adopt the values of free culture and open access. The group has slowly been building momentum for the past few years, but had not yet executed a major outreach initiative. Wiki Loves Pride helped kickstart the group’s efforts to gather international supporters and expand its language coverage.

Pride Edit-a-Thons and Photo Campaigns Held Internationally

We decided to run a campaign in June (LGBT Pride Month in the United States), culminating with a multi-city edit-a-thon on June 21. We first committed to hosting events in New York City and Portland, Oregon (our cities of residence), hoping others would follow. We also gave individuals the option to contribute remotely, either by improving articles online or by uploading images related to LGBT culture and history. This was of particular importance for users who live in regions of the world less tolerant of LGBT communities, or where it may be dangerous to organize LGBT meetups.

San Francisco Pride (2014)

In addition to New York City and Portland, offline events were held in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., with online activities in Houston, Seattle, Seoul, South Africa, Vancouver, Vienna and Warsaw. Events will be held in Bangalore and New Delhi later this month as part of the Centre for Internet and Society’s (CIS) Access to Knowledge (A2K) program. Other Wikimedia chapters have expressed interest in hosting LGBT edit-a-thons in the future.

Campaign Results

The campaign’s “Results” page lists 90 LGBT-related articles which were created on English Wikipedia and links to more than 750 images uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. Also listed are new categories, templates and article drafts, along with “Did you know” (DYK) hooks that appeared on the Main Page and policy proposals which may be of interest to the global LGBT community.

WikiProject Report: Indigenous Peoples of North America

A Zuni girl with a pottery jar on her head, photographed in 1909. Most Zuni live in Zuni Pueblo in southern New Mexico.

Wikipedia’s community-written newsletter, The Signpost, recently talked to a number of participants in WikiProject Indigenous Peoples of North America. Encompassing more than 7,000 articles, the project currently boasts sixteen featured articles—articles that have gone through a thorough vetting process and are considered some of the best on the encyclopedia—as well as 63 WikiProject good articles, which have been through a similar, though less rigorous, process. The WikiProject aims to improve and maintain overall coverage of the indigenous peoples of North America on Wikipedia.

Members CJLippert, Djembayz, RadioKAOS, Maunus and Montanabw were asked for their thoughts on various aspects of the project. All five have a strong interest in the topic, though not all have direct ties to the indigenous peoples of North America. CJLippert, who works for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, a federally recognized American Indian tribe in Minnesota, comes pretty close. “Minnesota is a cross-road of where the Indian Removal Policy ended and Reservation Policy began and where the old and small Reserve system and the new and large Reservation system intersect,” he explains.

He adds, “As I work for a Native American tribal government, though not Native but also not ‘White’, I have the privilege of participating as the third party between the two. This also means I get to see both the strengths and weaknesses of both in regards to the relations between the Native Americans and the majority population. As that third party, trying to help to close some gaps in understanding is what led me to participate in Wikipedia and then to join the WikiProject.”

Maunus, a linguist and anthropologist, focuses on Mexican indigenous groups, which he feels is an underrepresented topic area on Wikipedia. “I am one of the only people doing dedicated work on these groups, but I have been focusing on languages and I agree that Mexican indigenous people require improved coverage compared to their Northern neighbors,” he says. “There are some articles on the Spanish Wikipedia of very high quality, mainly because of the work of one editor, but likewise other articles that are of very poor quality, with either romanticizing or discriminatory undertones. They also tend to use very low quality sources.”

Wikimedia Foundation offers assistance to Wikipedia editors named in U.S. defamation suit

Since posting, we have learned that Mr. Barry’s attorney has requested to withdraw their complaint without prejudice and their request has been granted by the court. Mr. Barry’s attorney has further indicated that Mr. Barry intends to file an amended complaint some unspecified time in the future.

Wikipedia’s content is not the work of one, ten, or even a thousand people. The information on Wikipedia is the combined product of contributions made by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. By volunteering their time and knowledge, these people have helped build Wikipedia into a project that provides information to millions every day.

With many different voices come many different perspectives. Resolving them requires open editorial debate and collaboration with and among the volunteer community of editors and writers. Disagreements about content are settled through this approach on a daily basis. On extremely rare occasions, editorial disputes escalate to litigation.

This past month, four users of English Wikipedia were targeted in a defamation lawsuit brought by Canadian-born musician, businessman, and philanthropist Yank Barry. In the complaint, Mr. Barry claims that the editors, along with 50 unnamed users, have acted in conspiracy to harm his reputation by posting false and damaging statements onto Wikipedia concerning many facets of his life, including his business, philanthropy, music career, and legal history.

However, the specific statements Mr. Barry apparently finds objectionable are on the article’s talk page, rather than in the article itself. The editors included in the lawsuit were named because of their involvement in discussions focused on maintaining the quality of the article, specifically addressing whether certain contentious material was well-sourced enough to be included, and whether inclusion of the material would conform with Wikipedia’s policies on biographies of living persons.

A talk page is not an article. It is not immediately available to the readers of the encyclopedia. Its purpose is not to provide information, but a forum for discussion and editorial review. If users are unable to discuss improvements to an article without fear of legal action, they will be discouraged from partaking in discussion at all. While some individuals may find questions about their past disagreeable and even uncomfortable, discussions about these topics are necessary for establishing accurate and up-to-date information. Without discussion, articles will not improve.

In our opinion, this lawsuit is an effort to try and chill free speech on the Wikimedia projects. Since Wikipedia editors do not carve out facts based on bias or promotion this lawsuit is rooted in a deep misinterpretation of the free-form truth-seeking conversations and analysis that is part of the editorial review process that establishes validity and accuracy of historical and biographical information. As such, we have offered the four named users assistance through our Defense of Contributors policy. Three of the users have accepted our offer and obtained representation through the Cooley law firm. We thank Cooley for its assistance in the vigorous representation of our users. The fourth user is being represented by the California Anti-SLAPP Project and is working closely with the Wikimedia Foundation and Cooley.

Lawsuits against Wikipedia editors are extremely rare — we do not know of of any prior cases where a user has been sued for commenting on a talk page. The Wikipedia community has established a number of dispute resolution procedures and venues to discuss content issues that are available for anyone to use. Most content disputes are resolved through these processes. We are unaware of Mr. Barry taking advantage of these processes to work directly with the editors involved in this lawsuit or the greater Wikipedia community to address these issues.

Wikipedia’s mission is to provide the world with the sum of all human information for free and we will always strongly defend its volunteer editors and their right to free speech.

Michelle Paulson, Legal Counsel

Creating Safe Spaces

This morning I read an article entitled Ride like a girl. In it, the author describes how being a cyclist in a city is like being a woman: Welcome to being vulnerable to the people around you. Welcome to being the exception, not the rule. Welcome to not being in charge. The analogy may not be a perfect fit, but reading these words made me think of a tweet I favorited several weeks ago when #YesAllWomen was trending. A user who goes by the handle @Saradujour wrote: “If you don’t understand why safe spaces are important, the world is probably one big safe space to you.” As I continue interviewing women who edit Wikipedia and as I read through the latest threads on the Gendergap mailing list, I keep asking myself, “How can a community that values transparency create safe spaces? How can we talk about Wikipedia’s gender gap without alienating dissenting voices and potential allies?”

Ride like a girl?

Wikipedia’s gender gap has been widely publicized and documented both on and off Wiki (and on this blog since 1 February 2011). One of the reasons I was drawn to working on the gender gap as a research project was that, despite the generation of a great deal of conversation, there seem to be very few solutions. It is, what Rittel and Webber would call, a “wicked problem.” Even in the midst of the ongoing work of volunteers who spearhead and contribute to endeavors like WikiProject Women scientists, WikiWomen’s History Month, WikiProject Women’s sport and Meetup/ArtandFeminism (to name only a few), the gender gap is a wicked problem a lot of community members–even those dedicated to the topic–seem tired of discussing.

The Women and Wikipedia IEG project is designed to collect and then provide the Wikimedia community with aggregate qualitative and quantitative data that can be used to assess existing efforts to address the gender gap. This data may also be used to guide the design of future interventions or technology enhancements that seek to address the gap. The data may include but not be limited to:

A Survey of Esperanto Wikipedians

Esperanto Wikipedia founder Chuck Smith (right) being interviewed along with Miroslav Malovec (left), Esperanto Wikipedian and founding member of Czech Wikipedia during Esperanto Wikimania 2011 in Svitavy, Czech Republic.

Esperanto Wikipedia started its journey in 2001. Within the past thirteen years Esperanto Wikipedia has registered a massive growth with a record 196,923 articles[1] – an editing landmark which places it in the forefront of not only other constructed languages but also many natural languages.

As a constructive language, Esperanto has been adopted out of love for its inherently uniform grammar as well as the idea of a culturally neutral universal language. In the context of Esperanto Wikipedia, we find people from different parts of the world enthusiastically contributing.

It is with this global framework in mind that I made a humble effort to survey Esperanto Wikipedians in an effort to get an overview of the editing culture of this Wikipedia and the whereabouts of its contributors. I designed a 10-point questionnaire and sent it to a number of Esperanto Wikipedians. To my good fortune, the first recipient, Christian Bertin, provided an Esperanto version of the questionnaire making it possible to give respondents the option to reply either in Esperanto or English. I received 12 responses from Esperanto Wikipedians including three responses from admins.

Although all respondents did not disclose their geographical location, those who did hailed from Austria, Colombia, France, Portugal, Czech Republic, Spain and the United States. Three respondents were inspired by the efforts of the founding member of Esperanto Wikipedia, Chuck Smith, to promote Esperanto Wikipedia, with one respondent, Miroslav Malovec, sharing a close association with him.

Esperanto Wikipedians contribute on a wide array of diverse topics – from local information, transportation, writers, sports, literature, film, food, Esperanto events, Russian ethnography, American culture, geography, ornithology and other areas of biology and science. Two of the respondents, Pino and Miroslav Malovec, made a point to mention outreach events for Esperanto Wikipedia. Miroslav Malovec listed Esperanto Wikimania 2011 in Svitavy, Czech Republic, Conference on the Application of Esperanto in Science and Technology 2012 in Modra, Slovakia and Wikitrans 2013 in Partizánske, Slovakia as examples of outreach events. Another Wikipedian, Marcos Crammer, mentioned an interesting anecdote where he attended the Conference on the Application of Esperanto in Science and Technology 2010 in Modra, Slovakia where he encountered an Esperantist who had been frustrated by Esperanto Wikipedia because of a terminological error which remained unaddressed. Marcos suggested a proposal to change the terminology and later carried out the change, providing his Esperantist friend with a more positive outlook.

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