Anthere appears to have inserted her replies into Dovi's email without
any indication of who is saying what. No doubt it's just a client issue,
I don't mean to blame anyone. I just wanted to help out by reposting it
in the right quotation style.
Subject: free speech and wikinews
Date: Tue, 3 May 2005 03:52:20 -0700 (PDT)
I want to express my gratitude for all of the
thoughtful responses to
my post yesterday ("Ogg Vorbis versus Chinese Wikinews"). I very much
think the topic is an absolutely central one, and I guess I was
bothered when it looked like it was just going to slide by and be
ignored, or get a passive response of "let's see what the community
does" (if anything).
Of all the responses (they were all fascinating), the one I thought
was exceptionally perceptive was that of Tim Starling. Tim was 100%
right in the distinction he drew between "free speech" in its "free
software" context, as used by Richard Stallman, versus its normal
political meaning (e.g. in the context of the constitutions of many
nations). As Tim pointed out, Stallman's usage is based upon an
analogy to the political meaning, but they are not the same. I hadn't
thought enough about the distinction beforehand.
Tim writes that Wikimedia has always supported "free speech" as used
in Stallman's analogy, but not "free speech" in its usual meaning.
The question is whether this is completely true. It is true that
endorsing the former meaning (Stallman's) does not *necessarily*
imply endorsing the latter meaning. However, it is equally true that
endorsing the former strongly suggests endorsing the latter as well,
and many or most Wikimedia users probably assume that this is the
case, and not wrongly. So it is a strong implication, but has never
been made an explicit policy. What I suggest is that we formally
honor the implication by making it explicit policy.
I tried to put down a bit on the topic here
) as I wanted to clarify
those terms to those people not developers (such as me). The concept is
very much used by developers, but is not so well understood by others.
I actually got stuck with misunderstanding on the english article on
what [[free content]] mean... I would welcome your feedback on such
issues. Please do.
Anthere thought that I suggested the board was
actively opposed to
Chinese Wikinews. I never meant that, and apologise if I was not
clear. What I meant was exactly what Anthere wrote, namely that the
board is waiting for a clearer community decision. And that attitude
is exactly what I am suggesting be changed.
I guess it is relevant pointing out that I have a personal
relationship to this whole issue. In my real-life, over the past 6
years, I have been privileged to work on educational and cultural
programs side-by-side with extraordinary people (some of them known
worldwide) who were persecuted by totalitarian regimes and stood up
to them. All of these people agree on one thing, which is relevant to
Anthere's points: When it comes to an environment where speech is
repressed, one cannot talk about "the will of the community" in an
ordinary sense. On the contrary, to just leave things up to the
community in question *is by definition* to take a stance *against*
those who want to express their views but cannot do so.
But is our goal to explain governments what is wrong and where they
should change the way they set up things in their nation ?
I understand what you mean Dovi, and as an individual, I support it. I
am not sure every editor would be glad that the Foundation takes a
political position on the matter, so I do not feel the Foundation should
do it. Just my feeling. I am aware this is a highly contentious point
and that not all will agree with me.
It might be that wikinews in chinese IS important to create, but I do
not think this is the Foundation role to force its existence somehow
against some editors choice. I do not think it is the Foundation role to
take a stance against repression of speech. It is a bit tricky... but
there is at the same time a strong expectation that the Foundation
should not lead the project or impact in the way a project works... and
an expectation that we fix issues the communities do not fix themselves.
All with... generally speaking... extremely little feedback on what we
do (so, I really thank you for giving feedback on this topic).
I have all along the year wondered where was the limit of what community
expected from us. Taking political positions or not ? Taking care of
information distribution ourselves or focusing on helping the projects
to grow only ? Getting deeply involved in distribution in third world
countries thanks to grants or not ? Trying to stimulate release of
information under free licences by contacting govermental agencies for
example, or not ?
I have my own opinions. I try to listen to others opinions. I do not
hear so many :-(
That is why this whole issue goes way beyond waiting
for a clearer
consensus from the community, and to the guts of what Wikimedia
Do we really want "to make the sum total of human knowledge available
for free"? If so, this implies doing so without making exceptions for
languages or countries in which the expression of opinion is
curtailed. So (to return to Tim) this is deeply implied by the
current policies and self-image of Wikimedia. Let's make it explicit!
I do not define what we want to do as "to make the sum total of human
knowledge available for free"
What I think we try to do is "to make the sum of human knowledge
available to the largest number of people on Earth".
That makes a huge difference :-)
The information being free (as in free speech) or free (as in free beer)
is only a MEAN, not an END.
To give access to information to the largest number of guys, the
following can help
* help information to spread (through using a free licence)
* provide information for free (to reduce financial bottleneck)
* provide information in people mother language (to reduce misunderstanding)
Ideally, we should also work on plateform, since we today only provide
information through the net, to which not everyone has access to.
I suggest the following:
Wikimedia is committed to free software and free content: All of our
projects are provided "free as in beer" and licensed to be used
freely (as in "free speech"). We are also committed to "free speech"
in the traditional sense, namely that fear or threats of censorship
will not be allowed to interfere with the development of any existing
or proposed Wikimedia project."
In the future it might not just be China. There are many other
contries in the world that do not allow a free press. Or it might be
financial corporations. Adopting a clear policy on censorship now
(beginning with Chinese Wikinews) will set things in the right
direction for the future as well.
I am not sure how to express it exactly, but...
We are committed to free software and free content and gratis content in
particular because it helps our goal.
Most of us ALSO support free software, but it is not our "political goal".
Our goal is collecting information, gathering it and making it available.
I feel it is touchy to say this... but at the same time... when I read
the article defining [[free content]], when I see how few people mind it
being incorrect, or how few people understand and agree on what it
means... I feel the ground is much stronger when I focus on our goal
than on fluttery concepts :-)
There is a tiny difference here, but relevant. Imho.
In any cases, I appreciate very much your mails :-)
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