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
While we surely must not shy away from looking at what develops with and around Open Content and for solutions of harmful effects we must seek beyond the licensing level. We shouldn’t try to leverage copyright as a prohibitive means unless we are willing to sacrifice the idea of the Open Content altogether.
Read the introduction to the debate
Read Anna Mazgal’s take on the issue
New technologies mean new dark sides
The breathtaking potential of automated systems includes a breathtaking danger of abuse. One might argue, however, that facial recognition is not actually an application of artificial intelligence technology, but a rather sophisticated method of pattern recognition combined with an instance of deep learning mechanisms. We should widen the scope to the digital content used for enhancing autonomous systems or automation in general – the term Automated Decision-Making, ADM, comes to mind.
Nobody interested in digital technology, the internet, and fundamental rights should disengage from the debate around such systems and how to regulate them. At the same time we have to be quite precise about the types of content we are talking about. It’s not only because the property of being open (in the meaning of the open definition and the definition of Free Cultural Works) is key here. Also because the possible means for regulation differ according to the content in question.Read More »Debate: AI and the Commons – solutions to be found only beyond licences
The old principle that knowledge is power has been proven true in the online space in a way precedent only by the innovation of print. Free knowledge is designed to be shareable and shared online. It is evident that as the custodians of one of its flagship projects, Wikipedia, we should always consider if we could afford disengaging from conversation about the power that is created with it. This reflection is especially relevant in any global movement whose collective actions weigh enough to make a difference globally.
Read the introduction to the debate
Read John Weitzmann’s take on the issue
Match made in (online) heaven
Emergence of Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and other such projects wouldn’t have been possible without reliable, standardised mechanisms of controlling creative outputs by ceding rights to them. Creative Commons licences are a societally recognised tool to do just that. Of course Wikipedia could have gone with any tool of a release of rights. But because of the diffusion of Creative Commons licences and the community behind it willing to translate, improve and finally use the licensing it makes sense that CC licensing is present on Wikipedia to such an extent.
It is a joyous feedback loop – Wikipedia has many contributors so the intake of CC licensing is massive. Then the images and materials licensed in that way start functioning in other contexts and projects. The two ideas: of a tool and of a knowledge-building practice are mutually reinforcing. No wonder that there is a significant personal overlap between two communities of contributors.Read More »Debate: AI and the Commons – sharing is caring
Wikimedia.brussels introduces a new format: debate. Our regular contributors as well as guest authors look at one topic from various sides. The arguments may be contrary, or they may point to different priorities. Contributors cast light on the complexity of an issue that doesn’t lend itself to an easy one-way solution. It is up to our Readers to choose the most appealing point of view or appreciate the diversity of perspectives.
Read the contribution by Anna Mazgal
Read the contribution by John Weitzmann
These days, searchable Creative Commons-licensed resources include over 600 million items. Many of these are photos and out of them, a large number depicts humans – and their faces. While CC licensing does not touch upon the rights of subjects of photographs, the licences enable the author to waive many of their rights making possible, for example, reuse of images portraying people.
At Wikimedia, we are of course fans of open and free licensing – all content in projects such as Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons is available for further reuse. We love when people do that because practising Free Knowledge is only possible with frictionless sharing, adapting, remixing and building upon what already exists. But as we see the availability of these resources as a force for good, should we care if they are used in a way that harms people?Read More »Debate: Should we care that AI facial recognition is trained on openly licensed photos?