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.