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Foundation update on fundraising, new page patrol, Tides, and Wikipedia blocked in Pakistan

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By Andreas Kolbe, Bri, Red-tailed hawk, and Smallbones


Wikimedia CEO Maryana Iskander

In a post at the Village Pump on 25 January 2023, WMF CEO Maryana Iskander provided an update on a number of topics covered in recent issues of the Signpost:

Iskander said:

I am back to post a brief follow up message to my November note. Following the close of the RfC, the Wikimedia Foundation set up a co-creation page to seek input from community members on proposed messaging for banners. We posted regular updates on the campaign's performance to this page. In brief, over 450+ banners were tested during this year's campaign, and $24.7M of revenue was raised against an original $30M goal (a shortfall of $5.3 million). During the first few days the new banners resulted in about 70% less revenue than on the corresponding days in the prior year. Additional information on the campaign results are posted here. Next year, the fundraising team will continue to engage with the community on banner messaging. We look forward to building on the process we created this year.

I wanted to provide further updates on a few other issues that were raised:

  • Given the reduced revenue from the English campaign, the Wikimedia Foundation has reduced its budget projections for the current year. At this point, we don’t expect to see the same year-on-year growth in the Foundation’s budget next year. We will have more information by April on future financial projections.
  • The Foundation’s annual planning this year is being led by the needs of our Product & Technology departments. This will be the first time since about 2015 that these two departments will undertake joint planning. @SDeckelmann-WMF has asked me to pass along this update: "We've made progress on PageTriage issues raised by New Page Patrollers in an open letter. In the last 120 days, 141 patches have been reviewed through collaboration between the Foundation and the community. There have also been several meetings between community members and staff to talk about the future of PageTriage and the newcomer experience, and there is now work planned in Q4 to update the extension. We continue to engage with Commons as we are making critically needed software upgrades to community prioritized tools. The Foundation's Wishathon (leading up to the community wishlist kickoff for 2023) involved about 40 staff contributing time over a week in December to deliver 71 patches and 4 wishes granted. We are working with the community to make Vector 2022 the default skin, after 3 years of development work, feedback and iteration with wiki communities. More to come in March!"

  • Some comments were made in the RfC about the unclear role of the Tides Foundation in managing the Knowledge Equity Fund. Over the next few months, we will be moving the remainder of the Equity Fund from Tides back into the Foundation. The Wikimedia Endowment has received its 501(c)(3) status from the US Internal Revenue Service, so we are in the process of setting up its financial systems and transitioning out of Tides.

The message was warmly received by volunteers.

On 31 January 2023 Maryana also posted a longer "One Year Update" on the Wikimedia-l mailing list, marking her first full year in office. This covered some of the same ground as the above update but added further detail, especially as regards the months ahead:

On strategy, the Board of Trustees will meet this March in New York to consider a few topics that require taking a multi-year view:

  1. Wikimedia's financial model and future projections for revenue streams in online fundraising (which we anticipate will not continue to grow at the same rate), the next phase of the Wikimedia Endowment, and the lessons we have learned so far from Wikimedia Enterprise's first year of operation.
  2. Re-centering the Foundation's responsibility in supporting the technology needs of the Wikimedia movement by understanding the needs of our contributor communities, as well as emerging topics like machine learning/artificial intelligence and innovations for new audiences.
  3. Beginning more focused conversations to establish frameworks and principles for understanding the Foundation's core roles and responsibilities. This is intended to help to provide inputs into the movement charter deliberations and broader movement strategy conversations.

Members of the Movement Charter Drafting Committee and Wikimedia Endowment Trustees will join in the March sessions, and we will share a report with you after the meeting.

The update marking Maryana's first year in office is also available as a wiki page on Meta-Wiki. AK

Pakistan temporarily restricts, then blocks access to Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects

Pakistan tried in 2020 to censor Wikipedia content related to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community—a religious group whose practices are subject to strict restrictions in the Islamic Republic—and is now threatening to block Wikipedia over "sacreligious content".

UPDATE: Pakistan's Prime Minister has stepped in and ordered the PTA on 6 February 2023 to restore access to Wikipedia in Pakistan. – AK

On 1 February 2023 the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) published an announcement indicating that access to Wikipedia in the Muslim country had been restricted[Note 1] for 48 hours after failing to remove and/or block what the government agency described as "sacrilegious content". The Pakistani government agency stated that it had provided notice to "Wikipedia" for failure to abide by "applicable law and court order(s)" and had previously issued a takedown request on the offending content that was not complied with.

Dawn, Pakistan's flagship English-language newspaper, reports that the PTA had previously issued takedown notices related to Wikipedia's content in 2020. A contemporaneous report from Dawn describes these notices having objected to Wikipedia's characterization of Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, as being a Muslim.

Ahmadiyya teachings differ significantly from most Sunni and Shia Muslim groups; its teaching that 19th-century Punjabi author and religious leader Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was both the Messiah and the Mahdi is rejected by most other Muslims who consider Muhammad to be God's final prophet. Pakistan's constitution defines the nation's state religion as Islam and a constitutional amendment passed in 1974 declared that people who practice Ahmadiyya are to be considered non-Muslims. Subsequent legislation, such as the 1984 Ordinance XX, have banned Ahmadis from publicly describing themselves as Muslim and have generally restricted the public practice of Ahmadiyya. In Pakistan, it remains illegal for Ahmadis to recite the Islamic call to prayer, to proselytize, and to use various Islamic Honorifics to refer to people within the Ahmadiyya community.

Following Pakistan's block of Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation released a statement calling on Pakistan to restore access to Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

In 2020, the PTA had also objected to Wikimedia content containing what was described as "blasphemous caricatures" of Muhammad. Disputes involving images of Muhammad have long been a contentious topic on Wikipedia, though the Arbitration Committee recently rescinded its authorization for the use of discretionary sanctions on pages relating to the topic; the authorization thereof was terminated effective November 2022.

The PTA stated on 1 February that it would permanently block Wikipedia if the free encyclopedia would not comply with its censorship demands, though neither the Pakistani government nor the Wikimedia Foundation made public the exact scope of the demands.

On 3 February Bloomberg reported that Pakistan had blocked Wikipedia services in Pakistan, citing a statement by PTA spokesman Malahat Obaid. Later that day, the Wikimedia Foundation released a statement confirming that it had been blocked in Pakistan, saying that the foundation's internal traffic reports showed that Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects had been blocked in Pakistan and urging the Pakistani government to unblock Wikipedia in the country. The full statement reads as follows:

On Friday, February 3, 2023 Pakistan’s Telecommunications Authority blocked Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects. The Wikimedia Foundation calls on Pakistan to restore access to Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects in the country immediately.

The Wikimedia Foundation received a notification from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on February 1, 2023, stating “the services of Wikipedia have been degraded for 48 hours” for failure to remove content from the site deemed “unlawful” by the government. The notification further mentioned that a block of Wikipedia could follow, if the Foundation failed to comply with the takedown orders. As of Friday, February 3, our internal traffic reports indicate that Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects are no longer accessible to users in Pakistan.

The Foundation believes that access to knowledge is a human right. Wikipedia is the world’s largest online encyclopedia, and the main source of trusted information for millions. It’s an ever-growing record of history, and gives people from all backgrounds the opportunity to contribute to everyone’s understanding of their religion, heritage, and culture.

In Pakistan, English Wikipedia receives more than 50 million pageviews per month, followed by Urdu and Russian Wikipedias. There is also a sizable and engaged community of editors in Pakistan that contribute historical and educational content. A block of Wikipedia in Pakistan denies the fifth most populous nation in the world access to the largest free knowledge repository. If it continues, it will also deprive everyone access to Pakistan’s knowledge, history, and culture.

Wikipedia is written by nearly 300,000 volunteer editors. Together, this global community of volunteers has designed robust editorial guidelines that require strict citations and references to verified sources of information. Content on Wikipedia is mined from secondary sources; it does not allow original research. The community is guided by values of neutrality, reliability, and equitable access to information.

The Foundation does not make decisions around what content is included on Wikipedia or how that content is maintained. This is by design to ensure that articles are the result of many people coming together to determine what information should be presented on the site, resulting in richer, more neutral articles. We respect and support the editorial decisions made by the community of editors around the world. There are dedicated response channels available to individuals, organizations, or governments that would like to raise concerns about the site’s content directly with volunteer editors for their consideration and review. This contributes to Wikipedia’s transparency and upholds its collaborative model.

We hope that the Pakistan government joins with the Foundation in a commitment to knowledge as a human right and restores access to Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects promptly, so that the people of Pakistan can continue to receive and share knowledge with the world.

Stephen Laporte (pictured in 2012), a WMF lawyer, addressed the Pakistan-imposed ban in an email to Wikimedia-l.

Stephen LaPorte, a lawyer for the Wikimedia Foundation, said in an email to public mailing list Wikimedia-l that the foundation "is already examining various avenues and investigating how we can help restore access, while staying true to our values of verifiability, neutrality, and freedom of information."

"For over twenty years, our movement has supported knowledge as a fundamental human right," LaPorte said in his email, "In defense of this right, we have opposed a growing number of threats that would interfere with the ability of people to access and contribute to free knowledge. We know that many of you will want to take action or speak out against the block. For now, please continue to do what is needed to remain safe. We will keep you updated on any new developments, actions we are taking, and ways which you can help return access to Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects in Pakistan."

R, AK

Wikimedia Foundation board member Esra'a Al Shafei joins board of Tor project

Esra'a Al Shafei has joined the Tor board.

Wikimedia Foundation Board member Esra'a Al Shafei has announced that she joined the Board of the Tor project on 15 December 2022.

In a post on the Wikimedia-l mailing list dated 24 January 2023 she says:

Tor's privacy technologies have been critical resources for my human rights advocacy work. It felt fitting to have this opportunity to support an organization and community that made my work and the work of many other activists possible, especially those who live in countries where censorship and surveillance are the norm.

In the rare event that any Board decision from Tor or Wikimedia Foundation may impact either organization, I will be fully recusing myself from them. Like the Foundation Board, this position is voluntary and unpaid.

Tor's own announcement is here. AK

New Endowment Board Directors

As announced in a Diff blog post, the Wikimedia Endowment has added two new "At-Large Directors" to its Board: Alex Farman-Farmaian and Lisa Lewin.

Alex Farman-Farmaian has been a Wikimedia donor for more than a decade and is passionate about Wikimedia’s vision of bringing free knowledge to all the world’s people. Since 2006, Alex has been Vice Chairman, Partner, and Portfolio Manager at Edgewood Management. Prior to Edgewood, he was a senior member of the Portfolio Management team at W.P. Stewart & Co., chairing the Investment Oversight Committee. Alex will bring his finance and investment expertise to the Wikimedia Endowment as a member of the Finance Committee. [...]

Lisa Lewin served on the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation from January 2019 through to September 2021. She is CEO of General Assembly, which has built transparent career pathways for over one million people and diverse talent pipelines for hundreds of the world’s leading employers. She brings to the Endowment Board a deep knowledge of the Wikimedia movement as well as 25 years of experience leading and advising private, public, and nonprofit sector organizations. Lisa will serve on the Governance Committee, helping to ensure the Board is governed efficiently and effectively.

The full Endowment Board roster can be found on the Wikimedia Endowment website.

The Diff blog post also quotes Jimmy Wales referring to the "fact that we met – and even surpassed – our expected timeline for the Endowment’s maturation into a 501(c)(3)." Readers of The Signpost will recall that WMF promises to transfer the Endowment to its own 501(c)(3) organization, which would then file public financial statements, date back as far as 2017 (see previous coverage).

Under the present arrangement with the Tides Foundation, the money held in the Endowment is not included in the net assets of the Wikimedia Foundation, as those funds are held by the Tides Foundation. Donations to the Endowment that are received by the Wikimedia Foundation as a pass-through are redirected and sent to the Tides Foundation. Therefore, they are not reflected on the Wikimedia Foundation's financials as revenue or net assets. When the Wikimedia Foundation makes special grants to the Endowment Fund, those are reflected as "Awards and Grants" expenses on the Wikimedia Foundation's Annual Independent Auditors' Report.

As stated in the above updates from Maryana Iskander, the Wikimedia Foundation is currently still in the process of "transitioning out of Tides", having restarted this process in 2021 and gained approval for its new 501(c)(3) organization last year (see previous coverage). AK

Investigative challenge

The logo of OpenAI, the creators of the ChatGPT chatbot
Will the first AI-generated Wikipedia article please stand up?
The staff of The Signpost have identified what we believe to be the first AI-generated article in English Wikipedia, created on 6 December 2022. We challenge our readers to find this article, or any earlier AI-generated mainspace article. In the Comments section below, please let us know how you did it and what methods you used.

While the Village Pump section about content generated by large language models draws toward a close, and Wikipedia:Large language models a draft proposal for their use on Wikipedia is beginning to take shape, new tools to assist in identifying this output are not far behind.

A number of websites currently offer access to models that attempt to detect LLM-generated text, some of them seedier than others: https://detector.dng.ai/, https://contentatscale.ai/ai-content-detector/, https://corrector.app/ai-content-detector/, and https://writer.com/ai-content-detector/ all offer quick free analysis, with at least one of them using the opportunity for a sidebar upsell on their own "undetectable" generative models. Most of these seem to be implementing some form of roberta-base-openai-detector, a model based on RoBERTa (Robustly-optimized Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers-approach) and freely available on Hugging Face. However, RoBERTa-BOAID was optimized for detection on OAI's 2019 GPT-2-1.5B model.

OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, have released a test version of a classifier model (account required) designed to detect if text was generated by current GPT-series models: GPT-3, InstructGPT, and GPT-3.5 (ChatGPT). There is currently no whitepaper associated with the classifier model, and OpenAI says in the model card that they "do not plan to release the model weights", continuing a trend that began after their release of GPT-2 and subsequent partnership with Microsoft.

The Signpost tested the current text of the article mentioned above, which has been edited by 18 editors a total of 67 times since its creation. The detector reported that "The classifier considers the text to be very unlikely AI-generated."

Another detector, GPTzero, was created by Edward Tian, a senior at Princeton University, and was also used to test the same text. It reported that "Your text may include parts written by AI" and identified 12 sentences that were "more likely to be written by AI".

OpenAI and GPTzero's creator were both contacted for comments on this article at short notice, but neither have, as yet, replied. – J, S, B,

WikiLearn

WikiLearn, the free online learning platform created by the Community Development team at the Wikimedia Foundation, has come out of its beta testing period. It has a major new feature: course content translation.

For more info see Meta-Wiki. There is also a catalog listing courses people can enroll in right now, using their Wikimedia account (via OAuth, no password necessary). AK

Brief notes

One of the projects of the Wikimedians of Peru User Group was a photo campaign covering Peru's 2022 LGBT pride events
Serbian Wikimedians' collaboration with the Meridian sports news agency led to 175 photos of sporting events being uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.

Notes

  1. ^ Official documents described access as "degraded". Experts who talked with Geo News said that this took the form of blocking access to Wikipedia for some users in Pakistan, while the Editorial board of Dawn said that the government had "slowed down access" to Wikipedia.
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Of course a fund raising message that accurately says that it is to support WWF overall is going to get less donations than one that implies that more money is needed because English Wikipedia in jeopardy. The "less donations" is not a gauge of the merits of the change. North8000 (talk) 19:45, 9 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]





       

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