What do the European AI Act, the European Commission’s Data Strategy, the proposed US Digital Platform Commission Act and the German Digital Strategy have in common? They all name the public interest as a key objective. For good reasons, it is increasingly en vogue for digital policy to be designed as to foster the common good and serve the public interest. But what should public-interest digital policy look like? Wikimedia Deutschland has developed eight requirements against which digital policy projects must be measured if they are to serve the public interest. Transparency and effective participation are needed. Fundamental rights must be protected and damage to the community must be prevented. Digital policy should mitigate inequality, its outcomes must be open and accessible, and it must be collaboratively managed and renewed.
Since the advent of online platforms, which allow users to openly share content, the structure of the public sphere has been transformed. Until just a few decades ago, we were used to the fact that a significant part of public discourse would take place in publicly-owned and publicly-controlled spaces, be it town squares, parks, city halls, cultural establishments or public broadcasters. In the digital world, what we think of as public spaces are actually mostly private, for-profit, and/or data-guzzling platforms and services. The only very large online platform that is not-for-profit and is maintained by a thriving community of users is Wikipedia. This gives people on the internet agency and empowers them. We believe that the huge dominance of the for-profit, data driven model is a main reason for the greater vulnerability that our societies are experiencing in terms of polarisation, disinformation, and hate. We are confident that using versatile and diverse models of operation of online services and their underlying infrastructure will make society more resilient. It will make democratic, inclusive societies a harder target. For these reasons, we want a significant part of the online public discourse to take place on public or not-for-profit platforms, services, and infrastructure. To achieve the above objective, we suggest three areas of action. 1. Institutional Support Ensure funding for a network of publicly-owned and operated platforms that can host digital cultural heritage and public debates. Regardless of whether we are speaking of a regional museum, a small municipality, or public school, whenever these institutions and communities want to run a project online or share information, they rely on a few dominant, data-monetising services, even for the most basic action of hosting content. European digital hosting infrastructure for public service and cultural institutions is important for sovereignty and… Read More »Europe Needs Digital Public Spaces That Are Independently Moderated and Hosted
The EU’s new software liability framework is coming and FOSS developers should care
Amidst the legislative discussions around AI and cybersecurity, the EU is trying to figure out the right liability framework for software, including free software. Wikimedia shares the view that companies shouldn’t get a free pass for their services just because they open sourced their code. At the same time, we don’t want to see coders, who share their work with the public and peers in order to learn, tinker or to improve a free project, worry about liability too much. They need clear and effective safeguards.Read More »Who Should be Liable for Free Software?
Subject: Open letter from Wikimedia on making encyclopaedias fit for the digital age
Dear Executive Vice-President Vestager,
We kindly request a meeting with you to talk about how to ensure that encyclopaedic knowledge can be fit for the digital age.Read More »Open letter on making encyclopaedias fit for the digital age
Current proposals like the Cyber Resilience Act, the Directive on Liability for Defective Products and proposed amendments to the AI Act include vague and various liability carve-outs for “free and open-source software developed or supplied outside the scope of a commercial activity”.Read More »Wikimedia Position on EU Proposals for a Liability Carve-Out of Free and Open-Source Software
For almost a year now, Russia has been waging a brutal all-out invasion of Ukraine. While the situation in Ukraine today isn’t easy, the most difficult period was the first four to six weeks of the invasion – when Ukraine’s capital was under assault, and many people across the world feared the country would fall to its larger enemy. But Ukraine withstood against the odds – and so did Ukrainian Wikipedia. How the Ukrainian community of Wikipedia volunteers remained resilient to challenges?
A crucial source of information
As Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February this year, millions of Ukrainians were desperately looking for information. People were trying to understand the war’s general context, but also looking up specific actionable information – from rules of crossing the border to recipes of a Molotov cocktail.
Along with news publishers and other sources of information, Wikipedia saw its popularity surge. In April, the Ukrainian-language edition of Wikipedia attracted 106,877,169 user views, its second highest month in history. The most popular article – about Russia’s invasion – raked in 3 million views in less than six months, an absolute record for UkWiki. (In case you were wondering, the Molotov cocktail article gained almost 140,000 views in February – twice as many as for the whole five years before).Read More »Ukraine: countering Disinformation in the wake of Russian invasion
A debate focused on “big tech” & “big telco”
Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market wants major online platforms to contribute to the cost of telecommunications infrastructure. The distribution of wealth and added value, especially when talking about dominant and gatekeeping companies, is a fair debate that Europe clearly needs to have. However this debate makes a very unfair omission: It focuses only on “Big Tech” and “Big Telco”, while forgetting about the commons, alternative competitors, online communities and rural communes.Read More »Net Neutrality & the Fair Share Debate
The debate about the proposed Data Act is in full swing. The lead rapporteur for the Data Act, Pilar del Castillo Vera (EPP ES) in the Industry Committee, has published her draft report with proposed amendments. Other MEPs have until 28 October to propose their own changes. While there is some hope that amendments will effectively limit the sui generis database right (SGDR), the provisions for Internet of Things (IoT) data sharing that cement the factual data holders’ strong position currently remain largely unquestioned.
Authors: Aline Blankertz & Dimi DimitrovRead More »Hope and IoT Data: An Update on the EU’s Data Act
The Report on the digital commons, initiated by France during the conference “Building Europe’s Digital Sovereignty” (February 2022) was presented at the Digital Assembly co-organized in Toulouse by the French Presidency in June 2022. How well does the report address the future of enriching and accessing the commons in the EU?
In this installment of series of longer features on our blog we analyse the scope of the AI Act as proposed by the European Commission and assess it adequacy in the context of impact of AI in practice.
AI is going to shape the Internet more and more and through it access to information and production of knowledge. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata are supported by machine learning tools and their role will grow in the following years. We are following the proposal for the Artificial Intelligence Act that, as the first global attempt to legally regulate AI, will have consequences for our projects, our communities and users around the world. What are we really talking about when we speak of AI? And how much of it do we need to regulate?
The devil is in the definition
It is indispensable to define the scope of any matter to be regulated, and in the case of AI that task is no less difficult than for “terrorist content” for example. There are different approaches as to what AI is taken in various debates, from scientific ones to popular public perceptions. When hearing “AI”, some people think of sophisticated algorithms – sometimes inside an android – undertaking complex, conceptual and abstract tasks or even featuring a form of self-consciousness. Some include in the definition algorithms that modify their operations based on comparisons between and against large amounts of data for example, without any abstract extrapolation.
The definition proposed by the European Commission in the AI Act lists software developed with specifically named techniques; among them machine learning approaches including deep learning, logic- and knowledge-based approaches, as well as statistical approaches including Bayesian estimation, search and optimization methods. The list is quite broad and it clearly encompasses a range of technologies used today by companies, internet platforms and public institutions alike.Read More »Artificial Intelligence Act: what is the European Union regulating?