This policy was approved by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees on December 8, 2021
The Wikimedia Movement’s vision—of a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge—both relies upon and enables human rights. For that vision to thrive, people must be able to seek, receive, and impart information freely. Thus, Wikimedia's free knowledge projects depend upon the human right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which also affirms the right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The Wikimedia Movement is committed to advancing access to knowledge for communities around the world by removing barriers to access so that everyone can fully participate in, and benefit from, our projects. By promoting equal access to knowledge, we challenge the historic concentration of knowledge in the hands of a few. Recognizing that many histories and perspectives have been excluded by structures of power and privilege, we believe our free knowledge projects can play a key role in achieving inclusive, equitable, quality education and in realizing the human right to non-discrimination. We are committed to improving knowledge equity for women, LGBTQ+ communities, historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, people with disabilities, and communities in the underserved regions, and in people’s native languages.
Yet the Wikimedia Movement’s ability to help everyone, everywhere share in the sum of all knowledge is limited when universal human rights are not protected and respected. Therefore, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Human Rights Policy establishes our commitment to protect and respect the full range of human rights across all of our projects, while serving as a foundation for our broader work in advocating for policies and technologies that enable our global movement to thrive.
Our human rights commitments build on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the following international human rights instruments:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
- Convention on the Rights of the Child
- United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
As a private organization that supports the operation of digital platforms and services, the Wikimedia Foundation is committed to protect and respect all internationally recognized human rights in accordance with United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The Foundation is a non-profit organization. But our work in developing, operating, and supporting digital platforms and services exposes us, and all people who contribute to or interact with our projects, to human rights risks common to all digital platforms, including those operated by private companies. Thus we are committed to follow the global standards set forth by the UNGPs.
Scope: The Wikimedia Foundation’s commitment to protect and respect human rights includes: how we respond to and protect members of our movement against demands and threats from governments that violate the human rights of people who contribute to or interact with the Wikimedia movement; how we respond to and protect against threats by malign non-state actors; how our projects and platforms can protect the rights of children; and all other ways that the activities and operations of our foundation, projects, and movement might affect the rights of employees, volunteers, audiences, and the communities they belong to.
We support human rights defenders (including journalists) who work to peacefully promote and protect human rights, and whose vital work advances and depends upon free knowledge around the world. We condemn all threats, acts of intimidation and retaliation, persecution, and physical and legal attacks against human rights defenders. In addition, we strive to support an ecosystem that promotes human rights, globally, including by advocating for laws that respect human rights.
Relationship to laws: In the context of operating platforms and services around the world, the Wikimedia Foundation recognizes that in some countries, national law may offer weaker protections for our staff, volunteers, and community than international standards or may directly conflict with them. In instances where national law is weaker and we have direct ability to uphold a higher human rights standard, we commit to doing so. Where national law directly conflicts with international standards, we comply with national law in cases where we determine it to be applicable, in accordance with our Applicable Law Determination policy.
How We Implement Our Commitments
We strive to protect and respect the human rights of all people in the Wikimedia movement, on our projects and beyond, and through governance that reflects the Foundation’s values. As the hosts of Wikimedia projects, we are implementing this policy consistent with Wikimedia’s culture and values and aligned with the Foundation’s guiding principles: through openness, transparency, and in collaboration with the international Wikimedia communities. We will operationalize our commitments to human rights in these ways:
- Conduct ongoing human rights due diligence, including periodic human rights impact assessments, in addition to regular and robust engagement with rights holders and their legitimate representatives. Our human rights due diligence aims to ensure that we identify how all aspects of our operations and projects affect human rights, and in turn work to mitigate and prevent harm.
- Track and publicly report on our efforts to meet our human rights commitments, as part of our broader commitment to public transparency and openness through all of our websites and platforms, in addition to our dedicated Transparency Reports.
- Use our influence with partners, the private sector, and governments to advance and uphold respect for human rights. The Wikimedia Movement Strategy’s commitment to increase our global advocacy activities both reflects and enables this effort to advance the realization of rights we are uniquely positioned to support, especially the right to share and access information.
- Provide access to effective remedies. In cases where the Foundation’s prevention and mitigation strategies have not prevented our products, platforms, or operations from contributing to the curtailment, infringement or violation of human rights, we commit to maintain and improve mechanisms for reporting harms or abuses. We also commit to work with experts and stakeholders to develop or support appropriate forms of redress, proportionate to the type and manner of harm. We commit to avoid obstructing access to other forms of remedy including judicial remedies.
The Wikimedia Foundation is committed to regular and ongoing improvement. We recognize that the commitments made in this policy take time to implement, and that we must be honest with ourselves, the movement, and the broader public about our successes and shortcomings along the way.
People of the Wikimedia Movement
People are at the core of Wikimedia’s work. Digital rights are human rights. For the Wikimedia Foundation this means paying special attention to our staff and contractors, volunteer contributors, and people who use Wikimedia projects. We also recognize our responsibility to people who are not direct contributors or audiences of our projects, but whose societies are affected by the impact of our projects on their overall information environments.
Wikimedia Foundation staff and contractors support Wikimedia projects, volunteers, donors, and audiences. Our workforce shares our commitment to free knowledge and respect for human rights, and the Foundation’s Board of Trustees will hold leadership accountable for abiding by this policy.
We reaffirm the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to educate and raise awareness levels for staff and contractors across all departments about how their work might affect the human rights of individuals and communities.
In managing our staff and contractors, we are committed to uphold international human rights and labor standards. The Foundation’s Code of Conduct outlines our expectations that staff and contractors treat each other with respect and the Movement’s Universal Code of Conduct defines expectations for everyone who interacts in and contributes to Movement spaces or activities. The Foundation will not practice or tolerate discrimination on the basis of place of origin, race, ethnicity, citizenship, gender or gender expression, age, political or religious affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, family relationship, physical ability, or economic or medical status. We aim to treat all people with respect, and to foster a productive environment free of harassment, intimidation and discrimination. In addition, we work to ensure the physical safety of our staff.
Wikimedia projects are created by volunteer contributors. Editors and photographers write new articles and improve current articles. Developers write, maintain, and improve the software on which our platform is built. In doing so, they may expose themselves to risk—whether from harassment, government surveillance, or threat of reprisal by both state and non-state actors. Volunteers have the right to an environment that is free from harassment, whether by other volunteers, or by external actors.
Internal threats: Wikimedia projects belong to everyone, and we believe that everyone acting in good faith should be able to participate and feel respected. The Movement’s Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC) provides a universal baseline of acceptable behavior for the entire Wikimedia movement and all its projects. The UCoC is aligned with human rights norms and is grounded in the commitment to treat everyone who participates in the Wikimedia projects with dignity and respect. The Foundation is also committed to work with volunteers to ensure user conduct policies are clear, effective, and enforceable and that volunteers are provided with appropriate trust and safety tools, including tools to detect, report, evaluate and remove harassing content.
External threats: We recognize that volunteers may experience threats from outside the Movement based on their participation in our knowledge projects. At the Foundation, we conduct specific due diligence to maximize the safety and security of volunteers who are at greatest risk of persecution, reprisal or harassment in the course of their movement contributions due to their beliefs or characteristics, including human rights defenders who contribute to Wikimedia projects.
We take seriously our responsibility to minimize and mitigate risks faced by those who contribute to and interact with our projects and operations, and to defend them from direct threats to the best of our abilities. We will provide our volunteers with support and resources to protect themselves from such violations of their legitimate privacy rights by governments and other powerful non-state actors. While recognizing that we operate in over 300 languages, we will strive to foster a culture of shared education and learning across the movement about how best to keep each other safe. Foundation executives and staff will report on our progress to the Board, to members of the movement, and to the public.
Impact of Wikimedia Projects
Wikimedia projects provide access to free knowledge around the world, thereby helping to advance a range of human rights. The Foundation commits to develop technology and products with guidance from staff members with deep human rights expertise. In keeping with such guidance we are committed to deploy technologies that are considered industry best practice to maximize the safety and security of everyone who contributes to or interacts with our projects.
Even so, we recognize that some projects could have features, technologies, or processes that may, inadvertently, have a negative impact on human rights across communities and societies. We recognize the need to evaluate specific risks related to childrens’ rights. We also recognize the risks of malign misuse. For example, some people and organizations try to use our projects to spread misinformation or to suppress historical facts.
Some activities or projects may be misused by malign state or non-state actors directly and intentionally against members of our movement with the aim of silencing or discrediting them. The Foundation actively works to align responses to such threats with international human rights standards, particularly for freedom of expression and privacy. Where needed, Foundation staff employ a Crisis Response Protocol.
The Foundation also works with volunteers on systems and processes to identify and remove demonstrably harmful content, such as online child sexual exploitation material. Furthermore, we recognize that not all content on our platforms may be appropriate for all audiences, including children. We strive to support our volunteers with training to ensure that content is handled sensitively and appropriately where it may be deeply disturbing, resulting in harm, including self harm.
Due diligence and impact assessment processes are important tools for identifying risks and developing mitigation strategies to limit adverse human rights impacts, including infringements of the right to freedom of expression and non-discrimination. We commit to conduct ongoing due diligence, including periodic impact assessments to ensure that our due diligence covers the full range of ways in which our operations, projects, and other movement activities could cause, contribute, or be linked to any human rights harms.
The Foundation is committed to develop processes for due diligence and impact assessment that can be applied by staff and volunteers to new as well as existing products, services, features, and technologies (including algorithmic systems), in addition to other movement activities such as grants, campaigns, and events. At the same time, we recognize that designing and scaling due diligence processes over 300 languages in a highly complex socio-technical environment is a long-term commitment requiring significant time and resources. We commit to continuous improvement of our processes for discussing, identifying, and rectifying any human rights issues in our projects—both internally and externally. We will be honest and transparent about our progress.
Implementation of this human rights policy is coordinated by the Foundation’s cross-functional Human Rights Steering Committee, with day-to-day implementation led by senior staff across all of the Foundation’s departments, including those that develop and maintain Wikimedia’s technologies and products.
The Foundation commits to continued evaluation and improvement of existing on-platform channels and grievance mechanisms on the Wikimedia Projects. Wikimedia trustees, officers, employees, volunteers, and independent contractors with a concern about the human rights implications of our actions can raise a claim via our Whistleblower Policy. Other stakeholders may communicate concerns to talktohumanrightswikimedia.org.
The Board of Trustees has approved this policy and holds management accountable to it on an on-going basis through the Executive Committee. The Board further commits to include at least one member with human rights expertise. Senior Foundation executives update the full Board at least annually, including examples of specific human rights issues, and/or trends in types of human rights issues. The Wikimedia Foundation will continue to adapt our approach based on the findings of our ongoing human rights due diligence, engagement with volunteers, and engagement with other key external stakeholders.
Frequently Asked Questions
Available are answers to frequently asked questions regarding the Human Rights Policy.