The Signpost

News and notes

New legal "deVLOPments" in the EU

Contribute  —  
Share this
By Andreas Kolbe, Bri, HaeB and Minh Nguyễn

European Commission designates Wikipedia a "Very Large Online Platform"

Placeholder alt text
The European Commission has designated the first set of "Very Large Online Platforms" and "Very Large Online Search Engines" under the Digital Services Act

The European Commission has designated Wikipedia a "Very Large Online Platform" (VLOP) under the Digital Services Act. The same designation, used for platforms that reach at least 45 million active users per month, has also been applied to Alibaba AliExpress, Amazon Store, Apple App Store, Booking.com, Facebook, Google Play, Google Maps, Google Shopping, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube and Zalando.

The new designation means that Wikipedia will be required to comply with a set of new legal obligations. Some of these, related to targeted advertising and profiling, clearly don't apply to Wikipedia. However, the following may be relevant:

In reaction to the Commission's announcement, the Wikimedia Foundation published a blog post titled "Wikipedia is now a Very Large Online Platform (VLOP) under new European Union rules: Here’s what that means for Wikimedians and readers". This describes some of the work on compliance that has been ongoing since last year and concludes:

While we think our movement is already doing a good job addressing the expectations of Wikipedia being a VLOP, compliance with the EU DSA is nonetheless a journey into uncharted territory that the Wikimedia movement cannot avoid taking.

Further context was also provided in a posting on the Public Policy mailing list by a WMF lead counsel, and in Wikimedia Europe's monthly EU Policy Monitoring report for April (both summarized here). – AK, H

Who speaks for Wikipedia? Mastodon accreditation reverted.

Checkmark on a verified Mastodon account

As reported in our previous issue, Wikipedia recently gained a presence on the federated social network Mastodon, in form of the @wikipedia@wikis.world account – without the Wikimedia Foundation's involvement, after various community suggestions had fallen flat that WMF should itself establish such an account alongside the official @wikipedia Twitter account that it operates.

In general, if your Mastodon profile links to a website, and the website links back to the same Mastodon account with a rel="me" attribute, then Mastodon will display that account profile to others with a "verified" checkmark on the website. For a period of time the community-controlled[a] @wikipedia@wikis.world account was linked in this way to wikipedia.org, making it the verified Wikipedia account.

However, at the end of April, the change that had been made to the Wikipedia portal allowing @wikipedia@wikis.world to be verified was reverted for now by WMF.

What this means: Since un-verification, another Mastodon account could claim to represent Wikipedia, but it won't show up as verified.

Nevertheless, the Mastodon account remains active, helping this project to reach the Fediverse/Mastodon audience.

There's some uncertainty about when the wikis.world Mastodon instance or other Mastodon instances will actually notice that the account has been unverified, but long-term the verification does depend on the wikipedia.org portal. – B, M, H

  1. ^ not WMF-controlled

WMF proposes "an AI-assisted Wikipedia browsing experience"

Buried in the Wikimedia Foundation Annual Plan (draft) for Product & Technology is this provocative proposal: "an AI-assisted Wikipedia browsing experience". See meta:Special:Diff/24865392B

Brief notes

A Wiki Loves Earth image from Benin
S
In this issue
+ Add a comment

Discuss this story

VLOP status in the EU

When it says "Wikipedia" has been assigned a VLOP status, does that mean Wikipedia in all languages, or specifically the English one?  — Amakuru (talk) 06:30, 8 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Difficult to know. In France we have a similar law and I asked if regional languages were also concerned. We didn't receive an answer. For me, every main languages speak in EU are concerned by DSA (if it's not a tiny wiki). It's clear that EU autorities will try to know the number of moderators per country or language for Twitter, Facebook, etc. Pyb en résidence (talk) 09:51, 8 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I had the same confusion - especially since combining the Wikipedias as a VLOP is a really bizarre action. It's quite rare for us to do anything at that level. I would have expected them to join us at the "everything" or the "individual lingual project" levels. Nosebagbear (talk) 12:50, 8 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We wondered the same thing; see note "d" on the data we were required to publish: https://foundation.wikimedia.org/wiki/Legal:EU_DSA_Userbase_Statistics . Perhaps some enterprising academics will think about it; it's one of a few questions that the DSA raises. PBradley-WMF (talk) 15:35, 9 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
English is an EU language despite the fact that there are no English-speaking countries in the EU. Hawkeye7 (discuss) 00:48, 9 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Ireland and Malta. Blythwood (talk) 05:01, 9 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm wondering if this status is awarded per second-level domain since corporations/organizations usually organize their website that way -- e.g. all of Google is under google.com. If so -- it's rigid enough of a definition that would satisfy your average lawyer -- then that include all of the Wikipedias, no matter how small, while simultaneously exclude the other projects, such as Commons, Wikisource, Wiktionary, etc. -- llywrch (talk) 21:04, 11 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"It also preserves, at its core, the all-important notice-and-takedown paradigm for intermediary liability, rather than forcing the platform operator to systematically scan and block user-generated content that may be illegal in particular jurisdictions." (Diff blog post) So what happens when someone in an EU jurisdiction sends a takedown notice for forbidden content which is WP:NOTCENSORED in the US? Sandizer (talk) 15:43, 8 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There would probably be some drama between the EU and the WMF, which would likely result in either no action taken or WP getting blocked. History points to the first possibility being the most likely. Firestar464 (talk) 22:18, 8 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That would be a fairly accurate summary. The US continues to generate the most take-down requests, but even DMCA requests are not actioned these days. For all the details, read the Transparency report here Hawkeye7 (discuss) 00:48, 9 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The DSA doesn't necessarily change much in this space; WMF can, and does, already receive takedowns in respect of content that's lawful in the US. As for "DMCA requests are not actioned these days", note that this is usually because either (i) the community takes action on content before WMF needs to Office Action it, or (ii) it's a bogus request. Stats, as always, can be misleading! PBradley-WMF (talk) 15:35, 9 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The link doesn't work. Apokrif (talk) 18:33, 3 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Bravo for this incredible headline. Truly an all-timer. :) Joe Sutherland (WMF) (talk) 07:09, 8 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Andreas JN466 12:38, 8 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I concur, a work of genius. Zarasophos (talk) 15:48, 8 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

As the WMF has said, I think we already do a good job at a lot of this - it's pretty easy to report illegal or dubious content the the community generally acts very swiftly and effectively to tackle such issues, whether that's via the admin messageboards, ArbCom or other avenues. One thing we have deliberately avoided, and resisted, doing though is censorship of any form, and I'm wondering what the impact of the "protection of minors" section will be on that. If for example we need readers to verify their age before they can access some content, that's going to be an interesting challenge to implement. As well as the technical challenges there's the whole can of worms around deciding which content is restricted. As a whole, though, we're in a good place. Whereas Elon Musk seems to have reduced Twitter's moderation team to almost zero, we have many active and diligent people armed with mops and prepared to use them. WaggersTALK 10:38, 9 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There are challenges ahead, I suspect, and our movement is going to be quite heavily dependent on creativity and good judgement arising from within the community itself (though if, heaven forbid, WMF were to suggest something, hopefully we wouldn't have our heads bitten off). In an ideal world, if there's a problem and it needs a solution, the solution we come up with would *increase* the societal value of our projects. Like, ideally, if there are legitimate concerns about Commons content, it would be good to come up with solutions that don't require abandoning COM:NOTCENSORED, or require hard age gating, but might somehow still result in certain content being less likely to surprise a teacher in front of their classroom of 11 year olds (and by "surprise", I mean "result in parents calling for the teacher to be fired and never work with kids again"). Something like that could hypothetically allow Commons to become easier to use in a wider range of educational settings. PBradley-WMF (talk) 15:35, 9 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@PBradley-WMF: can you give some ideas of how this could be done and what it would entail? For example, suppose Commons had tags for NSFW and Nazi imagery, for children and German users to use to filter respectively. In such case would volunteers or the Foundation, or both, be responsible for adding those tags? It seems like it could be an expensive undertaking, but not insurmountable. How would such filters be activated? What happens when a filtered image is used in an article? Sandizer (talk) 15:35, 10 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hi Sandizer - I don't have authority to speak for the entire Foundation on this, but in the scenario you're describing I personally think it's best if the Foundation wouldn't be in charge of the tagging. PBradley-WMF (talk) 16:12, 10 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Commons does already have have this [1] CandyScythe (talk) 20:23, 10 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@PBradley-WMF: another huge question is, once we take a step down that path, what's to prevent litigious jurisdictions from demanding things such as [2]? Sandizer (talk) 16:03, 11 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Sandizer: note that a big part of my job, as you can imagine, is fighting takedowns. I'm not here to advocate for them! My earlier comment was mostly aimed at finding solutions that increase the value (e.g. broad-spectrum usability) of our projects, and my hope that ideas in that area (if any are needed) would come from within the community if possible. We shouldn't see the world only in terms of slippery slopes and zero-sum games! I think in theory it's possible to make Commons (more) capable of schoolroom use, for example, without giving into Putin's demands re. how to portray the "special military operation" in Ukraine, or the PRC's expectations re. Taiwan. PBradley-WMF (talk) 08:11, 12 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Some historical context (which I suspect @PBradley-WMF may already be aware of, but then again he seems to have joined the Foundation fairly recently and the organization has not always had perfect institutional memory). A similar-sounding solution was debated very extensively in the Wikimedia movement around 2010-2012, see e.g. this past Signpost coverage:
Now as Heraclitus knew already, nobody ever steps in the same community discussion twice. But I wouldn't bet on a total absence of concerns about slippery slopes.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 02:02, 22 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@PBradley-WMF: Do you need help to translate your original article in other languages? I can cover for the Italian version, if needed! Oltrepier (talk) 19:17, 9 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hello @Oltrepier! Sorry for the slow reply. It's always a kind gesture when someone volunteers to translate an article. Folks can translate a published post by logging in to Diff with their Wikimedia account via the "Login with MediaWiki" link. Then, visit the article they want to translate and click the "Translate This Post" under the byline. They'll be prompted to select the language to translate to and a copy will be made in the WordPress editor to translate. More details here: https://diff.wikimedia.org/translation/ PBradley-WMF (talk) 14:55, 16 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Mastodon accreditation

As another intermediate update on this, per meta:Talk:@Wikipedia#Hi!_Available_to_chat?, there was a meeting last week between the two community maintainers of the Mastodon Wikipedia (Legoktm and Annierau) and the WMF Communications department, where the latter appears to have made "the proposal to change the name of the account to 'Wikipedia movement,' 'Wikipedia volunteers,' 'Wikipedia worldwide, or something similar." Regards, HaeB (talk) 02:13, 22 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]




       

The Signpost · written by many · served by Sinepost V0.9 · 🄯 CC-BY-SA 4.0