[Wikimedia-l] WMF Policy and Political Affiliations Guideline

MZMcBride z at mzmcbride.com
Fri Aug 3 22:12:29 UTC 2012

Stephen LaPorte wrote:
> On Thu, Aug 2, 2012 at 6:07 PM, MZMcBride <z at mzmcbride.com> wrote:
>> My question, more directly, is: if the SOPA action from January 2012
>> were held in August 2012 (following the implementation of this new statement
>> from the General Counsel's office), would it be considered a "community
>> initiative" or not?
> The community's decision to blackout a project would not be within
> this guideline, but any additional WMF resources would require legal
> and financial review. There are strict laws in the U.S. that limit
> when a non-profit organization may engage in political and legislative
> activity, and it is the General Counsel and CFA's duty to ensure that
> the WMF complies with those laws. The community has procedures for
> determining consensus for action, and most of the time the community
> can implement that action without any additional resources from the
> WMF.

Thank you for this reply. It was helpful.

There's still a disconnect for me between what's being said on this mailing
list and on the Meta-Wiki talk page and what's being written in this new
statement. What I'm hearing being said is that this _internal_ policy is
mostly a guide for legal reasons to avoid trouble for the Wikimedia
Foundation, its employees, and its non-profit status under U.S. law. If so,
wouldn't the policy mostly be a matter of "ask the General Counsel's office
whether involvement in a particular action would be legally problematic"?

This policy seems to extend far beyond "what _can_ the Wikimedia Foundation
legally involve itself in?" and by requiring Board approval and community
approval (sometimes), seems to be a policy about what _should_ the Wikimedia
Foundation be involving itself in. Is this accurate?

This is where I see the disconnect. If it's simply a matter of keeping
Wikimedia out of trouble with the IRS, there are simple legal tests that
have no relevance as to whether there's Board approval or community approval
or the approval of the Head of Communications or anything of that nature,

Why are there so many various levels and steps if it's not a determination
about principles and about whether a particular cause meets Wikimedia's
mission? This is what's confusing me.

People on the talk page at Meta-Wiki have seemed to suggest that you would
_want_ this type of policy to cover administrator actions as administrators
are often unelected and hold lifetime appointments.

It's completely possible that it's just me, but something still isn't adding
up in my head when I consider this policy and what exactly it covers and
does not cover.


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