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Foundation launches Legal and Community Advocacy department

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By Resident Mario and Skomorokh
A diagram of the goals of the new Legal and Community Advocacy department.
A diagram of the goals of the new Legal and Community Advocacy department.
Philippe Beaudette, the new Director of Community Advocacy
The Wikimedia Foundation has announced the creation of a Legal and Community Advocacy department. The stated purpose of the department is to "carry forward the Foundation's goals of advocating for the community in new ways, ranging from fighting for content online, to facilitating community discussions about critical WMF initiatives that affect the community, to better supporting Wikimedia administrators and functionaries, to providing information about legislative initiatives worldwide that impact online content and censorship."

Philippe Beaudette, formerly Head of Reader Relations, will be the Director of Community Advocacy, reporting to the General Counsel, Geoff Brigham. Several other positions have been reorganized to accommodate the needs of the new department. The Foundation plans to base the department on the Wikimedia Movement Strategic Plan Summary.

LCA's first order of business will be a consultation period, expected to take 6–12 months, as it builds its team and develops its goals. Part of this process will be its establishment of a community advisory board to reinforce its commitment to "a global perspective while understanding and promoting communities beyond English Wikipedia". The team held its first office hours on 10 February.

The announcement precipitated much discussion on foundation-l, with particular focus on what it might mean for the Wikimedia Foundation's attitude towards community consultation in its decisions, legal strategy, and what role the new department might have in catalysing the community in activism. It may also indicate the continuing evolution in the handling of sensitive matters such as threats of suicide, takedown challenges, criminal activity affecting local projects, and legal liability for functionaries – which, although traditionally handled by volunteers (raising legal and ethical questions), have increasingly become the domain of the tireless Mr. Beaudette and his colleagues.

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