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In the media

Furor over new Wikipedia skin, followup on Saudi bans, and legislative debate

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By Bri, Andreas Kolbe and Smallbones
Online safety laws strictly enforced...against Wikipedia?

UK Online Safety Bill

According to Wikipedia, the Online Safety Bill is "intended to improve internet safety" in the United Kingdom. The WMF, and many others, have a dim view of it. For more, see this issue's special report.

Section 230

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has come under fire of late, from both sides of the U.S. political spectrum.
See prior Signpost coverage, and this issue's Section 230 report.

Media articles on the topic of the US Communication Decency Act's famous Section 230 include reactions to an anti-terrorism lawsuit, Gonzalez v. Google LLC, where plaintiffs blame YouTube for the Islamic State's 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.

The Verge tells us: "A number of internet services – including ... the Wikimedia Foundation – filed briefs last week ... encouraging the [United States Supreme Court] not to narrow its definition of Section 230 [of the Communications Decency Act]." But – as pointed out by The Verge – it also comes at a time where the Supreme Court might curtail the Section 230 in the separate NetChoice lawsuits against new state laws in Texas and Florida to restrict online moderation that is defined by these states as viewpoint discrimination. An argument against these state laws is that they essentially compel speech by online hosts such as Wikimedia – what Eugene Volokh writing in Texas Law Review calls "compelled hosting" – which is likely a First Amendment violation. We don't know yet whether it is a violation, and this is what the Supreme Court case will sort out, maybe.

Additional media coverage includes Gizmodo sorting out the views of several participants in Gonzalez, and a number of legal scholars providing opinions and analysis around Section 230 in both cases:


Saudi bans, jail sentences

Osama Khalid (left) and Ziyad Alsufyani, the two Wikimedians jailed in 2020 for 32 and 8 years respectively

The story of the Wikimedia Foundation's ban of sixteen administrators and editors in the Middle-East/North Africa region and the two Saudi Wikimedians, Osama Khalid and Ziyad Alsufyani, who have been jailed in a Saudi Arabian maximum-security prison since 2020 (see previous Signpost coverage) has been attracting further press attention over the past two weeks.

Democracy Now! featured an interview with DAWN executive director Sarah Leah Whitson on 17 January.

On 18 January, a number of human rights organisations (Access Now, ALQST, Article 19, Global Voices, GCHR and IFEX) published a report that called for Osama's and Ziyad's release and also included a short WMF statement:

"We are saddened and deeply concerned about these arrests and the harm they have caused to the freedom and safety of Osama Khalid and Ziad Al-Sufyani. The Foundation shares a common belief with Wikimedia volunteer communities around the world that access to knowledge is a human right."

DAWN Advocacy Director Raed Jarrar

On 26/27 January, a Reuters story titled "Wikipedia Middle East editors ban shows risks for creators" was carried by outlets including the Bangkok Post, Jakarta Post, Deccan Herald, Jerusalem Post and CNBC Africa.

The report included quotes from the recent Signpost coverage as well as a statement from Raed Jarrar, DAWN's Advocacy Director, who questioned Wikimedia's "business model" which he said had created "two classes of humans" – those paid to manage Wikimedia, and the volunteers who produce and edit Wikipedia's content for free:

"The biggest question here is about Wikimedia's model of relying on volunteers who are operating in authoritarian countries, and putting them in danger, and not advocating for their release when they are in trouble."

Pat de Brún, head of artificial intelligence and big data at rights group Amnesty International, commented on the political dimension driving government interest in Wikipedia:

"A huge amount is at stake. Knowledge is power, and the power to rewrite history and do propaganda is valuable for governments who have a lot to hide and have a shameful human rights record."


Vector 2022

A few articles have been written around the web about the allegedly uncontroversial implementation of Vector 2022. Meanwhile, an RfC regarding the update, created on January 21, has a whopping million bytes of discussion on it. The main question – whether the WMF should roll back the new skin as the default – currently stands at 289 in support, 207 in opposition, and 17 neutral. Further down the page, a side RfC on unlimited text width has 79 in support and 57 in opposition.


In brief

Bloomberg reports that Pakistan has blocked Wikipedia

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@Gråbergs Gråa Sång: Okay, you caught me. I have written it out into a section. jp×g 23:43, 4 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That at least is some furor, even if it wasn't in the media. Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 12:23, 5 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Btw, who alleged that this was an uncontroversial implementation? Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 08:45, 6 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]


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