Wikimedia's Transparency Report: Guys, We're A Wiki, Don't Demand We Take Stuff Down

from the good-for-them dept

Wikimedia, like many other internet platform these days releases a transparency report that discusses various efforts to takedown content or identify users. We’re now all quite used to what such transparency reports look like. However, Wikimedia’s latest is worth reading as a reminder that Wikipedia is a different sort of beast. Not surprisingly, it gets a lot fewer demands, but it also abides by very few of those demands. My favorite is the fact that people demand Wikimedia edit or remove content. It’s a wiki. Anyone can edit it. But if your edits suck, you’re going to be in trouble. And yet, Wikimedia still receives hundreds of demands. And doesn’t comply with any of them. Including ones from governments. Instead, Wikimedia explains to them just how Wikipedia works.

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.

On the copyright front, they only received 12 requests. I actually would have expected more, but the community is pretty strict about making sure that only content that can be on the site gets there. Only 2 of the 12 takedowns were granted.

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.

This is actually really important, especially as folks in the legacy entertainment industry keep pushing for demands that platforms put in place incredibly expensive “filter” systems. Wikipedia is one of the most popular open platforms on the planet. But it would make no sense at all for it to invest millions of dollars in an expensive filtering system. But, since the whining from those legacy industry folks never seems to recognize that there’s a world beyond Google and Facebook, they don’t much consider how silly it would be to apply those kinds of rules to Wikipedia.

Also interesting is that Wikipedia has now been dealing with some “Right to be Forgotten” requests in the EU. It notes that in the six month period covered by the transparency report they received one such request (which was not granted):

rom 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.

I don’t envy whatever person eventually tries to go after Wikimedia in court over a Right to be Forgotten claim — though it feels inevitable.

There’s more to look at in the report, but it is interesting to look over this and be reminded that not every internet platform is Google or Facebook, and demanding certain types of solutions that would hit all platforms… is pretty silly.

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Comments on “Wikimedia's Transparency Report: Guys, We're A Wiki, Don't Demand We Take Stuff Down”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

When Wikipedia (now Wikimedia) started...

…there were many claims that they should not be taken seriously. In the meantime, the Wiki has been working hard to present more facts and less presumption. I think they are doing a good job at that, and refer to them often. I think their articles should be taken seriously, today, and if there is still some discord about a certain article, make your edit. If that edit is believable and verifiable it will be accepted. If it isn’t…go suck an egg.

I would imagine that there are competing online encyclopedias that would take some issue with what Wikimedia posts, but then those articles are written by (usually) a single subject matter ‘expert’. When only one person is involved with the description of some subject matter, there is an opportunity for bias. With many persons involved with a particular subject, that bias has a tendency to be minimized, except of course when Internet ‘Public Relations’ firms (or whatever they call themselves) become involved. Or, when employees of some company try to sway the narrative about their employers.

As to the ‘right to be forgotten’ thingy, let them forget in the EU. The rest of us have a right to know the actual history of some persons actions, and there is (at least today) not one damn thing the EU can do about it.

ryuugami says:

Re: Re: When Wikipedia (now Wikimedia) started...

Ugh, the display of cognitive dissonance behind Conservapedia should be designated the Eighth Wonder of the World.

"Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, therefore it’s biased! We need an unbiased encyclopedia, which can be edited only by people I completely agree with!"

That degree of dogmatism is truly frightening, not to mention dangerous :/

Anonymous Coward says:

But if you're a principal at a site, more easily forgotten!

Seems to be a double standard. — Green Glenwald too, tries to forget his own porn-film “investment”. — OH, and let’s not forget MR GOOGLE Eric Schmidt, who tweaks the “algorithm” out of sight to keep HIS “open marriage” shenanigans secret.

Anyway, as usual for masnicks, we HAVE ONLY Wikipedia’s word for this, it’s NOT INDEPENDENT AUDIT. You’re a FOOL if believe that out of public sight, Wikipedia doesn’t push the Establishment Elitist agenda with selective rules / edits.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not surprising. Wikipedia was one of the major sites whose blackout helped raise awareness of SOPA, and got it rejected.

As a diehard advocate of SOPA, out_of_the_blue holds a very deep grudge against Wikipedia. The fact that it’s a “free” encyclopedia viewable and usable by anyone is icing.

Matthew Cline (profile) says:


Anyway, as usual for masnicks, we HAVE ONLY Wikipedia’s word for this, it’s NOT INDEPENDENT AUDIT.

Do you think that Wikipedia should be required to have an independent audit? Although it’s a non-profit it’s still a corporation and according to you (I think it’s you, anyways) corporations are supposed to serve the public interest.

That One Guy (profile) says:

"I won't have to pay for it, why should I care?"

But, since the whining from those legacy industry folks never seems to recognize that there’s a world beyond Google and Facebook, they don’t much consider how silly it would be to apply those kinds of rules to Wikipedia.

There’s also the fact that the ones pushing for said filters wouldn’t be the ones paying for them, so why would they care how much they would cost to create, implement and run?

Anonymous Coward says:

I trust Wikipedia when it comes to empirical data, but don’t trust it with anything involving people, controversies, politics, and history. Oh… and pages describing any kind of organization or group (especially corporations).

There’s a lot more incentive to pay (or influence) people to either write those pages or make certain changes, which means pages with the above subject matter are too subject to being changed to show more bias than the neutral tone Wikipedia claims to strive for.

… And the musician discographies aren’t bad.

Even if Wikimedia is being honest with its report, and it sounds like a good example of ignoring requests to remove online information, it doesn’t change how Wikipedia is only as trustworthy as the editors and admins that work with it, who could be anybody promoting anyone’s narrative or censorship.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Just because an article has extensive references doesn’t mean those references are accurate or reasonably factual. You have to vet the sources as much as the distillation of the sources. Taking things at face value with Wikipedia is just as unwise as taking traditional dead-tree encyclopedias as authoritative (hint: you shouldn’t). They both have roughly the same accuracy statistics according to a published (2006) Nature study. It points out that while Wikipedia was (is?) roughly as accurate as Encyclopedia Britanica was, neither one of them are primary resource material. Which is why you’d get an “F” from college professors for listing any encyclopedia as a reference for scholarly thesis.

Mark (profile) says:

copyright law

If anything we write and then publish is copyrighted in the US can the writers be forced to alter their writings if it does not violate a law in their country.

I don’t know what I am trying to say here, but many of these editors take pride in their work. Why should they diminish the impact of their work, or undermine their arguments because someone is ashamed of something they did.

Germany is ashamed of what Hitler did, should the rest world not know that there were Nazis in Germany during the 1930 -40s

Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously says:

filtering system

Wikipedia is one of the most popular open platforms on the planet. But it would make no sense at all for it to invest millions of dollars in an expensive filtering system.

Yet Wikipedia exclusively uses the most expensive filtering system (human brains). that happens also to be the only known effective one. (i.e. educating humans on the complexities of copyright and trusting them to make good choices).

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