Photo by Flicka, CC BY-SA 3.0.

In the last six months of 2017, thousands of volunteers took the time to edit and add content to Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects. Each edit was a step towards achieving the Wikimedia movement’s vision of providing free access to the sum of human knowledge.

As the projects grow, the Wikimedia Foundation receives requests from private parties and government entities to delete or change content, or to disclose nonpublic information about users. At the center of our guiding principles are our commitments to transparency, privacy, and freedom of expression, which is why we push back on any requests that are inappropriate or fall short of our stringent standards.

Twice a year, we publish our transparency report, which details the number of requests we received, their types, countries of origin, and other information. The report also includes an FAQ and stories about interesting and unusual requests.

The report focuses on five main types of requests:

Content alteration and takedown requests. From July to December of 2017, we received 343 requests to alter or remove project content, seven of which came from government entities. Once again, we granted zero of these requests. The Wikimedia projects thrive when the volunteer community is empowered to curate and vet content. When we receive requests to remove or alter that content, our first action is to refer requesters to experienced volunteers who can explain project policies and provide them with assistance.

Copyright takedown requests. Wikimedia projects feature a wide variety of content that is freely licensed or in the public domain. However, we occasionally will receive Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices asking us to remove content that is allegedly copyrighted. All DMCA requests are reviewed thoroughly to determine if the content is infringing a copyright, and if there are any legal exceptions, such as fair use, that could allow the content to remain on the Wikimedia projects. From July to December of 2017, we received 12 DMCA requests. We granted two of these. This relatively low amount of DMCA takedown requests for an online platform is due in part to the high standards of community copyright policies and the diligence of project contributors.

Right to erasure. From July to December of 2017, the Wikimedia Foundation received one request for content removal that cited the right to erasure, also known as the right to be forgotten. We did not grant this request. The right to erasure in the European Union was established in 2014 by a decision in the Court of Justice of the European Union. As the law now stands, an individual can request the delisting of certain pages from appearing in search results for their name. The Wikimedia Foundation remains opposed to these delistings, which negatively impact the free exchange of information in the public interest.

Requests for user data. Sometimes, the Wikimedia Foundation receives requests for nonpublic user data from government entities, organizations, and individuals. These requests can range from an informal email to a formal court order or subpoena. From July to December of 2017, we received 14 requests for user data and partially complied with one of them. Unlike many other online platforms, we collect very little nonpublic information about our users, so we often do not have data that is responsive to the requests. We will only produce information if a request is legally valid and follows our requests for user information procedures and guidelines.

Emergency disclosures. Very rarely, the Wikimedia Foundation will be made aware of concerning information on the projects, such as suicide or bomb threats. Under these extraordinary circumstances, we may voluntarily disclose information to the proper authorities, consistent with our privacy policy, to help resolve the issue in a peaceful manner. Additionally, we provide an emergency request procedure for law enforcement to seek information that may prevent imminent harm. From July to December of 2017, we voluntarily disclosed information in 13 cases, and provided data in response to one emergency request, for a total of 14 emergency disclosures.

The Wikimedia Foundation is committed to transparency. We invite you to read the full transparency report online, where you will find more data, frequently asked questions, and interesting stories from the last six months. We’ll also be distributing an updated version of our print edition at upcoming events, beginning in early March. Additionally, feel free to read the blog posts about our past transparency reports for more insight on how the information in this report compares to reports from the past.

Jim Buatti, Legal Counsel
Leighanna Mixter, Legal Counsel
Aeryn Palmer, Senior Legal Counsel
Wikimedia Foundation

The transparency report would not be possible without the contributions of Siddharth Parmar,  Jacob Rogers, Jan Gerlach, Katie Francis, Rachel Stallman, Eileen Hershenov, James Alexander, Shunsuke Terakado, Emine Yildirim, Matt Wes, Niharika Malhotra, and the entire Wikimedia communications team. Special thanks to Dan Douglas for help in preparing this blog post, and to the entire staff at Oscar Printing Company.