Debate: AI and the Commons – sharing is caring

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.

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Debate: Should we care that AI facial recognition is trained on openly licensed photos?

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?

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Data Act: A small step for databases, an even smaller step for the EU

Today, the European Commission has leaked its proposal for a “Data Act”, a piece of legislation that is supposed to include a revision of the Database Directive and the sui generis right for the creators of databases (SGR) it establishes. 

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Retrospective: A Year of Advocacy at Wikimedia Sverige

2021 marked the 20th anniversary of Swedish Wikipedia, which we made sure to celebrate on several occasions here in Sweden. Today, almost nine out of ten Swedes regularly use the website, and polls show that it is one of only a very few platforms that Swedes find trustworthy across the political spectrum. More and more institutions and organizations realize the importance and value of working with the Wikimedia platforms. In its 2021 report, the Swedish Museums Association finds that out of the 233 million reported digital views of their members’ works, 185 million originated from Wikipedia. And then only 19 out of their 230 members reported Wikipedia statistics, indicating that the real number could be much higher.

Wikimedians don’t, however, operate in vacuum. In 2021, Wikimedia Sverige saw more and more reasons to intensify our efforts to safeguard the free and open internet, especially when it comes to protecting the rights and freedoms of the users. Pretty much everyone loves Wikipedia, but not everyone understands that Wikipedia can only thrive in a digital sphere where legislation allows for creativity and sharing.

In this text, we will try to outline some of the major battles Wikimedia Sverige fought in 2021, some of the achievements – and some of our hopes for the future. On top of the support that we, as always, give our lobbying team in Brussels.

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Retrospective: a year of advocacy at Wikimedia France

Wikimedia France looks back on 2021, a year of advocacy campaigns at national and European level. Bringing the voice of community-governed platforms such as Wikipedia – besides the commercial ones – is not always easy. And while legislators and policy makers receive our arguments and concerns generally positively, there is still a long way to go before our messages and initiatives claim to be embedded in the texts that shape and frame the digital of tomorrow.

Several bills have, this past year, impacted Wikimedia projects and particularly the collaborative online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Without going into a Prévert-style inventory, Wikimedia France wants to come back to some of its battles that it has carried out relentlessly, in order to defend a vision of a free and open Internet, protecting the rights and freedoms of users.

The Republican Principles bill or “the French DSA”

The bill reinforcing respect for republican principles, originally called “law project against separatism”, was not intended to regulate digital platforms. Indeed, the main objective of this text was to “fight against radical Islam and separatism”. But policy experts ended up qualifying it as a “catch-all”, insofar as a lot of subject matter had been inserted into it, including digital issues.

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DSA: Parliament adopts position on EU Content Moderation Rules

Yesterday the European Parliament adopted its negotiation position on the EU’s new content moderation rules, the so-called Digital Services Act. The version of the text prepared by the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) was mostly adopted, but a few amendments were added. 

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The EU’s New Content Moderation Rules & Community Driven Platforms

The EU is working on universal rules on content moderation, the Digital Services Act (DSA). Its co-legislators, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council, have adopted their respective negotiating positions in breakneck time by Brussels standards. Next, they will negotiate a final version with each other.   
While the EP’s plenary vote on the DSA is up in January and amendments are still possible, most changes parliamentarians agreed upon will stay. We therefore feel that this is a good moment to look at what both houses are proposing and how it may reflect on community-driven projects like Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata.

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Path to the Digital Decade: do EU policy-makers dream of electric sheep?

European Union is dreaming of becoming a global digital powerhouse. This dream is neither unfounded nor silly. On the contrary, we have everything that’s needed to build a resilient European internet. Unfortunately, as our human dreams tend to, the “Path to the Digital Decade” Policy Programme compiles big words with old solutions and seemingly random actions. Does it mean that we will sleep through the opportunities of the decade that, whether we prepare for it or not, is bound to be digital?

FKAGEU feedback on the Policy Programme “Path to the Digital Decade

A frame, a performance in 3 acts and an umbrella

With its strong balance between freedom of business and interventionism, founded on long traditions of freedom of expression and access to information paired with functioning political instruments to legislate across national jurisdictions, Europe is uniquely positioned to regulate, shape, invest and inspire the emergence of the European internet. So where are we with that?

To recap: we have the existing framework of the Digital Single Market: “the digital Schengen” aimed at legislating to lift barriers of access to products and services. This framework is embodied through the legislation ranging from the new directive on copyright in DSM, geo-blocking regulation, terrorist content regulation (sic!) as well as the three acts that are now going through the legislative process: Digital Markets, Digital Services and Artificial Intelligence Act.

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DMA votes: IMCO vs. Council, users vs. Member States

We have it! Both the Council of the European Union and the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee adopted their versions of the Digital Markets Act. After the upcoming EP Plenary vote we will spend a good part of 2022 following the intransparent and unpredictable negotiations between the two bodies. Let’s take a look at what they are bringing to the negotiating table if it comes to big ideas and, above all, new benefits for users.

How it started, how it’s going

After the European Commission showed its proposals for the Digital Markets Act, there were different views on how to make it better; the EC proposal lacked teeth, especially regarding any mechanisms that could break the grip that GAFAM has on the internet. For us, at Wikimedia, the most desired approach would have been to address the business model and not merely base the gatekeeper qualification on turnover and market capitalisation. 

It turned out very quickly, however, that the legislators are not in a mood to overturn the status quo. That was not exactly the key objective for the IMCO Committee Rapporteur, although Shadow Rapporteurs managed to introduce good ideas, as we will see below. Now we are awaiting the Plenary vote, most likely on December 16th. It remains to be seen whether the IMCO report will be in any way amended. But it doesn’t seem likely that the changes, if any, are substantial and it is unlikely that the file that the need for is so widely understood would be rejected. 

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