This question reflects a common misunderstanding of the legal framework that protects the Wikimedia Foundation. The Wikimedia Foundation has broad rights to intervene in Wikipedia content (or other project content) above and beyond what may be strictly required by law.  Exercise of these rights does not create "the risk of being recognized as a publisher and having to assume the responsibilities that come with it." 

There is no substitute for reading the scholarship relating to Section 230 and other protections that apply to Wikipedia, to other Wikimedia projects, and to the WMF generally. Those who forgo doing the reading--a good place to start is Professor Jeff Kosseff's book, THE TWENTY-SIX WORDS THAT CREATED THE INTERNET--will almost invariably get caught up by the infectious but false meme that that any intervention in content beyond that which is legally required creates "publisher" status and loses (e.g.) Section 230 protection. 

I've written on this and related subjects in many places:

This is only a sample of my writings on this and related subjects, but don't let the volume of my prose deter you--my writing style makes up for my prolixity.


On Mon, Aug 23, 2021 at 6:38 AM Lionel <> wrote:

Hi, Isn't the legal status of the foundation a web host? If it intervenes on projects within the framework of what the law expects from hosting companies, everything is fine. If it does more at the level of project governance and publishing, then it runs the risk of being recognized one day as a publisher and having to assume the responsibilities that come with it. Kind regards,

Lionel Scheepmans

Le 23-08-2021 0:32, Mike Godwin a écrit :

I think you're indulging in the common tendency of inferring that if WMF did not do something a decade ago that it had the legal right to do, it follows that it lacked the moral courage to do that thing (or else that it had moral courage then but lacks it now--the moral-judgment fantasy can run in both directions). 
Given that concern about disinformation on Wikipedia and elsewhere was less prominent in public discourse a decade ago, Occam's Razor suggests that the primary reason for any change in willingness to engage in top-down intervention was that disinformation was perceived, rightly or wrongly, as less of problem. In addition, you assert (without any facts offered in support) that WMF was just as well-positioned to directly intervene in disinformation problems a decade ago as they may be now, or as they may soon be. This doesn't seem to be grounded in anything other than prejudgment. 
But if moral condemnation based on presumption of a lack of ... some virtue or other ... floats your boat, who am I to detract from your innocent fun?

On Sun, Aug 22, 2021 at 12:59 PM Andreas Kolbe <> wrote:
Well, that was the difference I was referring to. (I wasn't really thinking of content found libellous in court, child pornography etc.)
What is new is that the WMF is expressing an interest in the actual integrity of the encyclopedic content, hiring staff to address "misleading content", "disinformation", etc., rather than restricting itself to deletions required by law. 
The WMF's recent action concerning the Croatian Wikipedia surely is an example of this shift. The WMF had the means – but not the will – to do what it has done now, ten years ago.
In a similar way, I understand that content added by ISIS sympathisers is a problem in the Arabic and Farsi Wikipedia versions that the WMF is now trying to address.

On Sun, Aug 22, 2021 at 1:31 PM Mike Godwin <> wrote:
Andreas Kolbe writes:
It's worth noting that Yumiko's article (now also on
quotes the WMF as saying it "does *not often* get involved in issues
related to the creation and maintenance of content on the site."

That "not often" actually indicates a little publicised but significant
departure from past practice when the WMF would disclaim all responsibility
for content ....
WMF did not "disclaim all responsibility for content." Instead, WMF disclaimed primary responsibility for content, and still does. When WMF was understaffed, as it typically was during Wikipedia's first decade, we made a point of steering certain complaints and legal demands to the editor community as a default choice. The policy reasons for this choice were straightforward. But WMF directly intervened on a number of occasions, typically as required by law.
Mike Godwin
Wikimedia-l mailing list --, guidelines at: and
Public archives at
To unsubscribe send an email to

Wikimedia-l mailing list --, guidelines at: and
Public archives at
To unsubscribe send an email to