[Foundation-l] [Wikimedia Announcements] Board resolution commissioning study and recommendations

Michael Snow wikipedia at verizon.net
Thu Jun 24 06:20:50 UTC 2010

It seems like we have yet to figure out if we can get the announcements 
list to automatically copy messages here. But since the "reply-to" 
function is at least set properly for this list, I'll take advantage of 
it now to make sure the full original message is posted here as well.

--Michael Snow

On 6/23/2010 10:47 PM, Michael Snow wrote:
> As a follow-up to the previous statement and discussion about
> appropriate educational content, the board has passed a resolution
> requesting a study of the issue of potentially objectionable content. We
> have asked the Executive Director to organize this study and develop
> recommendations for the board. We expect these will be shared with the
> community and stimulate further discussion about whether to adopt
> particular recommendations. Potential action would only follow that
> process, but since it's hard to say what that might involve without
> knowing the recommendations in advance, I will also pass along some
> questions and answers that attempt to explain the process in more
> detail. The text of the resolution follows:
> 1. The Wikimedia Foundation vision imagines a world in which every
> single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That is
> our commitment, and we aspire to see it realized.
> 2. We are making good progress towards that goal. Today, hundreds of
> millions of people read the Wikimedia projects every month. Those people
> represent a wide diversity of ethnicities, nationalities, ages,
> socioeconomic conditions, sexual orientations, religions, values and
> attitudes. We are proud of that, and we consider it proof of our
> projects' broad relevance and utility.
> 3. In any group as diverse as ours, ideas about acceptability and taste
> will necessarily vary widely. We know that to be true in our case
> because, over the years, we have received many requests asking us to
> remove from the projects different types of material, on the grounds
> that it is objectionable to particular individuals or groups. However,
> Wikimedia policy has never called for material to be deleted purely on
> the basis that it is, or may be, objectionable, and our projects have
> long contained caveats to that effect.
> 4. We do expect material in our projects to be educational in nature,
> and any material that is not educational should be removed. We see our
> role as making available all knowledge, not solely such knowledge as is
> universally deemed acceptable. We believe that individual adults should
> be able to decide for themselves what information they want to seek out.
> In the case of children, we believe that their parents, teachers, and
> other guardians are best placed to guide them to material that is
> appropriate for them, based on their development and maturity, as they
> grow into adulthood.
> 5. Nevertheless, we are concerned about the possibility of people being
> exposed to objectionable material that they did not seek out. This may
> include material that is violent, sexually explicit, or otherwise
> disturbing; culturally offensive depictions; profane or vulgar language;
> depictions of potentially dangerous activities; and exposure of children
> to material that may be inappropriate for them. We believe that the
> Wikimedia projects are a valuable educational resource, and we do not
> want these issues to interfere in sharing knowledge with present or
> future readers.
> 6. The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees believe that the Wikimedia
> projects have a serious responsibility to carefully balance these
> interests to the best of their ability. This includes considering the
> interests of both adults and children, as well as understanding
> different cultural perspectives about what material may be offensive. It
> is a difficult challenge, and we do not take it lightly.
> The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees hereby requests its Executive
> Director to undertake a project studying this issue, and to develop a
> set of recommendations for the Board. In this work, we ask that she
> consult with a variety of stakeholders and experts, including Wikimedia
> editors, other organizations which have grappled with the same or
> similar issues, and thought leaders including relevant members of our
> Advisory Board. We ask that she make an effort to include non-Western
> perspectives. The purpose of this work is to develop recommendations to
> enable the Wikimedia projects to appropriately and effectively serve all
> audiences, including both adults and children, and including readers
> both current and prospective.
> The scope of this work should be broad, and might include recommended
> changes to editorial policies, technical solutions, the development of
> new projects that are appropriate for children, and so forth. In an
> effort to allow sufficient time for thoughtful investigation, but also
> to bring closure to this issue within a reasonable period, we ask the
> Executive Director to deliver preliminary recommendations to the Board
> at its fall meeting, and we encourage her to consult with the Board as
> required in the intervening months.
> --Michael Snow
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