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We are Wikimedians working on EU policy to foster
free knowledge, access to information and freedom of expression.

Artificial Intelligence Act: what is the European Union regulating?

Analysis

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?

Update on Net Neutrality in the EU

Net Neutrality in the EU seemed like a topic of the past. Something we dealt with, secured and could turn our attention to other issues now. Two significant recent developments show that it remains a dynamic policy field and that we mustn’t forget about it. After all, we want an information infrastructure that allows all users to have equal access not only to Wikipedia and its sister projects, but also to all the citations and sources.  

Bad news from the Commission

Very large telecoms companies have wanted to make very large online platforms pay for network use for a while. Now they seem to have found a like-minded EU Commissioner in the face of Margrethe Vestager. The argument of the Danish politician is a modern classic for the EU. It boils down to the fact that very large platforms are responsible for a bulk of the internet traffic, but according to telecoms companies are not paying their fair share to fund the infrastructure. 

Read More »Update on Net Neutrality in the EU

UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science

In late 2021, the UNESCO General Assembly approved a new Recommendation on Open Science. All the member states agreed on a final version, that for the first time provides an official definition of what open science is, and that calls for legal and policy changes in favor of open science. As a recommendation is the strongest policy tool of UNESCO, “intended to influence the development of national laws and practices”, this is important news for the entire scientific community. 

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China rejects Wikimedia from important UN body


Many international organisations have made commitments to improve transparency and civil society participation. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) apparently continues to see things differently. On Monday, six Wikimedia chapters were denied observer status at the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights.

Read More »China rejects Wikimedia from important UN body

DSA: Political Deal done!

European Union (EU) lawmakers have agreed on a political deal to establish general online content moderation rules. Several cornerstones include a notice-and-action regime, Commission oversight over very large platforms and certain rules for terms of services.

After the political deal, some technical wording remains to be worked on. The deal is expected to be voted on in Parliament in July 2022. We have previously compared the three stances from a free knowledge point of view. We also analysed the state of negotiations in April 2022. Here is an analysis of the trilogue deal, based on what we know. 

We welcome that during the deliberations  lawmakers began making a distinction between rules created and imposed by the services provider and rules written and applied by volunteer editing communities. It is a pity that “citizen moderation”, something the internet needs more of, wasn’t recognised explicitly.

Read More »DSA: Political Deal done!

DSA: Trilogues Update

European Union (EU) lawmakers are under a lot of self-imposed pressure to reach an agreement on content moderation rules that will apply to all platforms. Several cornerstones have been placed either at the highest political levels (e.g., banning targeted ads directed at minors) or agreed upon on a technical level (e.g., notice-and-action procedures). But there is still no breakthrough on a few other articles, like the newly floated “crisis response mechanism.”  

Read More »DSA: Trilogues Update

DMA: heated trilogue negotiations concluded with partial interoperability gains

On Thursday March 24th the trilogue negotiators concluded discussions, dramatic at times, over the Digital Markets Act. The compromise includes some gains on interoperability, a potential changemaker in the online intermediation. What to expect? Where not to hold your breath? We parse out the practical consequences of the trilogue outcome on interoperability.

Winding road to the final compromise

Interoperability has been a point of contention since the European Commission published their first draft in December 2020. The EC drafted it narrowly, obligating gatekeepers to offer interoperability to the so-called ancillary services, like payment or identification services, that wish to operate within closed ecosystems. IMCO Rapporteur MEP Andreas Schwab followed this approach in his draft report. 

That didn’t go well with many MEPs who were disappointed with the fact that an opportunity to open up walled gardens of online intermediation had not been exploited. Many amendments and heated debates later, the final EP report provided that interconnection should be also possible between messaging apps and services (the so-called number independent interpersonal communication services) as well as social networks.

Since the Council’s approach was focused on refining the business-to-business side of interoperability, the trilogues didn’t show much promise in securing the extension of the EC’s scope. Somehow, under pressure of time the delegation of MEPs managed to negotiate some gains that keep the spirit if not the letter of the EP mandate.

Read More »DMA: heated trilogue negotiations concluded with partial interoperability gains

Debate: AI and the Commons – solutions to be found only beyond licences

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

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.

Read More »Debate: AI and the Commons – sharing is caring

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?

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