Swedish politician Karl Sigfrid discusses his lobbying work for digital rights and Wikimedia in the European Union. Sigfrid was a Member of Parliament (the Riksdag) in Sweden for the Moderate Party from 2006 to 2014. He now works as a volunteer for Wikimedia Sverige in Brussels, in coordination with the office in Stockholm.
Hello Karl Sigfrid,
You are about to move to Brussels to help with Wikimedia Sverige’s lobbying efforts for a year – and you are doing this as a volunteer! We would love to hear a bit more about this.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself? Who are you?
A: I have been working in the Committee on the Constitution in the Swedish Parliament for eight years. During this time, I have come to realize that almost all new issues that affect free speech, privacy and other fundamental rights are in one way or another tied to technical innovation and to the development of the Internet. Therefore, it has made sense for me to focus my efforts on digital rights.
Q: Great! What made you decide to work with Wikimedia’s lobbying efforts, out of all things?
A: I view this as an opportunity to spend even more of my time doing what I love – engage in the issues that determine what the future will look like. Free access to information is perhaps the most important element in a successful society. Free access to knowledge also means equal access to knowledge and new opportunities for those who are shut out from the traditional educational systems.
Q: How can the Wikimedia movement engage in lobbying, while Wikipedia claims to be neutral?
A: We have to distinguish between the encyclopedia Wikipedia and the organization Wikimedia. That Volvo’s idea is to build safe cars doesn’t mean that Volvo as a company in every instance has to avoid risk. That the information in Wikipedia is neutral does not, along the same lines, mean that Wikimedia as an organization always must remain neutral. Wikimedia’s vision of a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge is anything but neutral. Likewise, there is nothing neutral about the organization’s mission to disseminate information under free licenses.
That being said, everything an organization does will be associated with its services or products, so if relevance and correctness should be important values in all lobbying — and they are especially important for Wikimedia.
Q: What are you planning to focus on in Brussels during the first months?
A: My first task will be to establish a priority list. The are plenty of EU regulations, existing ones as well as those in the making, which have the potential to affect Wikimedia’s activities. Everything from copyright reform to data protection and trade agreements can entail regulatory changes that help or hurt the efforts to get more information out there. All these processes must be prioritized. Which of them are the most significant? Which can we steer in the right direction? That’s what I’ll have to determine.
Q: What do you think will be the most interesting challenges with the work ahead?
A: Probably the ones that I haven’t yet realized that I will face. Regardless of what I expect of Brussels, I’m sure that the city will turn out to be something completely different.
Thank you Karl!
Interview by John Andersson, Wikimedia Sverige