[Wikimedia Announcements] Board resolution commissioning study and recommendations

Michael Snow wikipedia at verizon.net
Thu Jun 24 05:47:18 UTC 2010

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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