what Josh Lim wrote in the other threat:
In the absence of any meaningful alternative, what should we do then?
Close down Wikipedia Zero and let the developing world languish in the
dark? We talk of a "more sustainable way to bring free knowledge (which is
far more than Wikipedia)”, yet we’re not seeing anything coming out of this
I will be brutally honest to everyone in this mailing list: this entire
discussion about Wikipedia Zero and net neutrality has become very
patronizing against us in the developing world who benefit from the
program. The fact that we’re having this discussion without developing
world voices (other than myself) is already troubling in itself since, so
far, every discussion about Wikipedia Zero that I’ve seen only includes
those "white, privileged and well-educated people” who you defend.
And yet you guys talk as if you know what’s best for the developing world.
That’s the tone that I’ve been sensing in this entire discussion thus far,
and I’m sorry, but it’s not helpful. Please don’t speak as if you guys
know what it’s like on the ground in Asia or Africa.
I’ve had to swallow my own pride just to accept the fact that net
neutrality has to take the back burner to bringing more information out
there to people. I have always believed in net neutrality as a means of
ensuring a free and open Internet to everybody. But if you’re in a country
like the Philippines where the majority of people don’t even have the
luxury of going online (and if you do, it’s bloody expensive), then having
access to some information—even if that information is imperfect—is still
better than none at all, since at least we can still correct any
misinformation that may arise. And as Wikipedians, we are in a position to
do just that through ensuring that our content is well-monitored, neutral
and comprehensive so that at least there’s a multitude of viewpoints
present even if the information is coming from a single source.
We should make people in the developing world aware of net neutrality, yes,
but we must also be careful to consider the existing socio-economic
conditions of the countries where this program has been deployed. I am all
for the sharing of knowledge and the free exchange of information for the
greatest benefit, but we cannot have that discussion if people are not able
to have access to the Internet in the first place. We cannot afford at
this point to put the cart before the horse, and as I’ve mentioned earlier,
in the absence of a meaningful alternative, this is the best we can do so
Also, just so you know: Wikipedia Zero, at least in this country, is being
implemented by a local telecom with no discernible link to the big players
like Orange or T-Mobile or Telenor. They view it so far as good CSR and
not as a means of controlling the flow of information or wanting to make a
profit. So yeah, at least for us it’s been good so far. If it happens
though that things turn sour, then expect us to fight for our principles.
my answer to Josh:
Hi Josh et al.,
as you seemed a bit upset, I want to take the chance to answer you to
better understand my position.
Taking your "brutal honesty" into account I will try to be the same. I
wasn't sure especially about that point in the discussion, because my
knowledge about the access situations around the world is only based on
several discussions I had with web people from developing countries around
the world in the recent years and by reading reports about it. Over the
last years on several occasions I spoke with many people from developing
countries who are actively promoting the internet and its enourmous
possibilities as the best tool mankind created for it so far.
So I always kept in mind that there are as many different approaches to the
open use of the web as there are people around the world. I'm also worried
when I see that in some countries new "web" users know nothing about the
internet because for them data stuff is facebook stuff. Also I'm worried
that the economic situation in several regions are producing situations
which aren't helpful to keep the web what it's supposed to be, e.g. when in
India people buy cheap access to Facebook, but "the whole internet" costs
much more. Because as all this is data, this separation is artifical and
access providers as well as dominant market content players are using their
power to promote price models based on content and data types instead of
the use of the whole internet.
For me (and other students) "going online" wasn't cheap back in the 90s and
I am not sure how the use of the web would have developed if back then
there would have been an offer onyl getting some websites for a cheaper
price. In fact there were these offers - called "walled gardens" where you
got a selection of information and data types by pre-selected partners of
the access provider. Similiar story was the rise of AOL and their walled
garden system. People who went online with AOL first showed clearly
different user habits because of this walled garden experience, they
haven't experienced the free web therefore "internet" for them was much
less then it actually offered. And still the digital media literacy e.g. of
many users in Germany sucks also because they didn't "learn" the internet
Back to today. You said you felt patronized by the discussion, that wasn't
my intention. But there are several NGOs from developing countries feeling
patronized by the telecoms which provided a pre-selected internet to the
people. One of them said at the IGF in Istanbul: "It's like they say: Here
have some Facebook and a dash of Wikipedia zero-rated, but the rest you
have to pay." - So, feeling patronized in a discussion isn't surely a good
feeling, but being patronized in the use of the internet in your country
has a much more bigger negative impact on society.
Just one thing: I didn't come up with this "white, privileged and well
educated"-stuff that was Gerard in my eyes trying to make a rhetoric trick.
But it's not working, because the world isn't that black/white and even if
there is one local telecom which isn't somehow connected to a big player.
The main partners of WP0 (Orange and Telenor) ARE global players and they
surely have a more "white and privileged" standpoints when it comes to
develop access provider business in developing countries. We all see and
experienced the hard bandages with which the "white and privileged"
telecoms fight in USA and Europe when it comes to ruin net neutrality. So
how comfortable for them to avoid this later fights by not offering "the
internet" as they did in US/Europe, but to train user habits by giving them
the "different data type, different price"-experience from the beginning.
And don't be fouled: The zero-rated experience is part of the "different
data type, different price"-experience - and WMF fell for the trap.
Why did WMF fall for the trap? Well, let's say, because of Assuming Good
Faith. Surely in the beginning, like on many other ideas, it all sounded to
good to be true: "free wikipedia for the people" - That's music in all our
ears. But really believing, that "spreading the knowledge" is a new mission
(or truely and eternal "CSR") of business telecoms - well, good luck with
that attitude around the world. Let's ask this gratious access providers
why not giving more free knowledge to the world - What about the 30,000
free videos of Harvard University or the 500 videos under Creative Commons
of a local professional school? Oh, well, that's a lot of data traffic not
to charging for…the telecom guy says… let's keep this zero-rating idea
stick to the text-based Wikipedia - without the chance to use the external
links to the internet for free. Let's give the people the little *Walled
Wikipedia Knowledge cake* and not the whole for free - well, that's
patronizing in my eyes.
It is a clear strategy by telecoms around the world to weaken net
neutrality in many ways. Getting people used to pay different prices for
different data is one of perfidious one, because it sometimes feels right
in the first moment, but it lays the wrong groundworks. "The internet" then
becomes a place were open innovation (societal and economic-wise) becomes
more difficult or even impossible - so the main function of the web is
But Wikipedia needs this open air to breathe and to evolve. Free Knowledge,
Open Data and GLAM need this open air to evolve - a network were you pay
different prices for different kind of data (even if it is actually all the
same 0s and 1s) isn't the internet anymore. Wikipedia becomes the Facebook
of encyclopedias, there will be only one knowledge and that is Wikipedia
knowledge - not sure if that was anything to do with what Wikipedians
Wikipedia Zero isn't leading this process, it is a tool in the hands of the
telecoms. They surely have a lot of nice words for WMF-representatives,
because, hej, they get the 6th biggest global website with mini datavolume
for FREE to use it for one of their main marketing targets: Teach the
people that different data/websites have different prices. - Apart from all
the good arguments about spreading the knowledge I think we need to be
aware of our responsibilities in the big picture. And that argument isn't a
"white, privileged" argument, but one which cares about keeping the core of
the web free and open and let not fall it in the hands of access dealers
and their economic interests.
thanks for reading
2015-04-01 22:07 GMT+02:00 Jens Best <best.jens(a)gmail.com>om>:
Dear Nathan et al.
I answered Josh in the other threat but will copy my answer to him again
here below so that anybody interested to continue can do this in the
Nathan, I am disgusted by your comparisons. "colonialist aspect"? "little
reminiscent of European Christian missionaries bringing the Bible to the
supposedly uncivilized." These allegations - presented as comparisons -
are purely insulting.
Oh, and actually it was Lila who introduced WP0 to this threat - otherwise
I wouldn't have taken the chance to hint Kourosh to this field which was
announced to be in his future field of responsibility.
I will not continue discussing with people making insulting comparisons to
violent christian missionaries or similarily offending rhetoric stuff which
in no way helps the discussion.
I - as everybody else in this discussion - are not to be judged by my
race. Believing just because I am white I could only think and behave in
colonistic pattern is an insult and not a contribution to the discussion.
2015-04-01 21:16 GMT+02:00 Nathan <nawrich(a)gmail.com>om>:
On Wed, Apr 1, 2015 at 3:05 PM, Gilles Dubuc
To me Josh's point in the other thread
settles this argument. I can't
presume to know better than the people this service is made for what is
good for them. People in other cultures have values as well. They might
different than ours, but more importantly, they
have to be pitted
constraints that are completely different than
ours. It's perfectly
that the result of the moral equation people have
to solve can be
than ours. It's also logical for it to evolve
over time, as the
change. Let people in the countries where
Wikipedia Zero operates decide
whether it fits their vision of the movement or not. I'm sure that if
in a given country find it contrary to their
beliefs or what they think
be the movement's values, they'll
campaign against it on their own
I agree. We've discussed on this list before that for some, including
the principles of net neutrality haven taken on a religious dimension. Any
deviation from the absolute principle is attacked as immoral, so that some
who expect that Wikimedia is a moral actor (from their perspective) feel
shocked and betrayed when it is apparent that Wikimedia doesn't share this
religious view of net neutrality.
Josh Lim's e-mail makes it clear that there is a definite colonialist
aspect to this absolutist perspective, more than a little reminiscent of
European Christian missionaries bringing the Bible to the supposedly
uncivilized. Net neutrality activists should not presume to know better
what is right and necessary for all parts of the world; if Wikipedia Zero
is hailed as useful and needed in areas where it is available (and it is),
then we should accept it and even promote it as a moral positive.
And to Jen's complaint about calling WP0 off topic... Perhaps you
misunderstood, Jens - I wasn't referring exclusively to your reply to
Gerard, but to the clear fact that a discussion about net neutrality was
off topic for a thread welcoming a new executive to the WMF. Incidentally,
I believe it *was* you who introduced WP0 to the thread.
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