Why You Should Care

  • The freedom to share and access knowledge is a fundamental value of the Wikimedia movement.
  • Governments and others often try to censor the Wikimedia projects to limit people's access to unbiased information.
  • Censorship of the Wikimedia projects prevents people from reading and creating free knowledge.

Freedom of expression is a foundation of free knowledge. Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects provide valuable information about history, politics, culture, and every other corner of society. Local language communities independently create free knowledge on the Wikimedia projects in over 200 languages around the world. For many people, Wikipedia is the most accessible source of neutral information in their language.  It may contain content that some readers consider objectionable or offensive, but offensiveness alone should never be grounds for the removal of truthful information. We believe that everyone in the world has a fundamental right to freely share and access knowledge without fear of repercussions. And we strongly oppose censorship or threats that lead to self-censorship, including blocking, filtering, and any other efforts to remove legitimate information or prevent access to it.

Governments and internet service providers have censored Wikipedia in several countries, both in the context of widespread internet censorship as well as targeted censorship of certain information. For example, the Wikipedia domain or select Wikipedia articles have been blocked in the United Kingdom, Iran, Syria, and Tunisia in recent years for content that authorities deemed politically sensitive. In order to combat targeted censorship, Wikimedia Foundation secured access to Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects with HTTPS and Strict Transport Security. HTTPS makes it more difficult for internet service providers or others to monitor browsing and selectively censor articles or other content.

The Wikimedia Foundation also actively resists censorship in the form of requests to change or delete content. Every year, we receive requests from governments, individuals, and companies. We grant few to none of these requests, complying only when legally required. We also receive Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices asserting copyright infringement. We thoroughly analyze each notice to ensure that it is valid and that the DMCA process is not being abused to censor the Wikimedia projects. We assess the copyright eligibility of the work being infringed, the likelihood of actual infringement, and the possibility of fair use. When we must remove content based on a DMCA request, we record the takedown in our bi-annual Transparency Report and post the request online, which allows others to do the same analysis. We are concerned with proposed revisions to copyright laws that may impose automated filtering technologies that lay the groundwork for broader internet censorship and surveillance.

The Wikimedia movement has an impressive history of active opposition to legislative policies that could lead to more online censorship. In 2011, Italian Wikipedia protested an Italian law that would limit free expression. In January 2012, English Wikipedia went dark in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), which would have seriously undermined free speech on the internet. Later in 2012, Russian Wikipedia protested a Russian law that would enable internet censorship. More recently, the Russian Wikipedia responded to threats of censorship with a steadfast commitment to delivering neutral, reliable information. It is not enough to fight censorship only when it threatens Wikimedia. Information is an ecosystem, and censorship anywhere is harmful to free knowledge everywhere.

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