Policy:Human Rights Policy/Frequently asked questions

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The questions and answers below relate to the Human Rights Policy approved by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees on 8 December 2021.

What does this policy mean for Foundation staff and Movement volunteers?

The Global Advocacy team has published a Diff blog post that examines what this policy means for Foundation staff and Movement volunteers.

What was the process for developing this policy?

In 2020, the Wikimedia Foundation joined the company constituency of the Global Network Initiative, a multi-stakeholder organization that advocates for freedom of expression and privacy on the internet and requires its company members to commit to a set of principles in support of those rights, in accordance with international human rights standards. Also that year, the Foundation commissioned Article One Advisors, a consultancy that specializes in human rights, responsible innovation and social impact, to conduct a human rights impact assessment of Wikimedia’s free knowledge projects. The assessment was informed by extensive consultation with Foundation staff, Movement volunteers, and other stakeholders and experts on technology and human rights. The scope was intended to address all human rights, including but not limited to freedom of expression and privacy. The assessment’s objectives included surfacing salient human rights risks across Wikimedia’s free knowledge projects and the development of strategies to mitigate actual and potential risks related to the Wikimedia projects, including avoiding harm to people who engage with or are affected by Wikimedia projects, directly or indirectly.

Article One submitted their final report to the Foundation in July 2021. The report’s findings and recommendations were presented to the Board of Trustees in September 2021. It surfaced five categories of human rights risks related to Wikimedia’s free knowledge projects: harmful content, harassment, government surveillance and censorship, risks to child rights, and limitations on knowledge equity. Priority recommendations included:

  • Develop a standalone Human Rights Policy to serve as a North Star for Wikimedia’s human rights efforts (which we have now done);
  • Conduct ongoing human rights due diligence. This includes:
    • Regular human rights assessments (across the Foundation and its projects)
    • Transparent reporting on outcomes and mitigations
    • Rights-compatible channels to respond to human rights concerns raised by community members
    • Empower Foundation Staff and the Broader Community via robust training programs and product tools (e.g. incident response software) to support broader respect for human rights.

It is our intention to publish more detailed findings and recommendations from the Human Rights Impact Assessment report in 2022. The Human Rights Policy has undergone several drafts with initial inputs from Article One, members of the Human Rights and Public Policy teams, and other members of the Legal Department. The policy was then shared with key representatives from across the Foundation and with the Board of Trustees’ Product and Technology Committee. After extensive feedback and discussion, it was further revised before being submitted to the full Board of Trustees for final approval.

How will you involve the movement in shaping how this policy will be implemented?

The policy represents a set of very high-level commitments that will take years to implement, in an iterative, consultative, and transparent fashion. Now that the policy has been approved, we need to develop an initial implementation plan. In January our Human Rights and Public Policy teams will begin that process, working closely with staff from across the Foundation to review the recommendations from our impact assessment. At the same time, in the new year we will establish real-time and asynchronous channels for members of the movement to help us shape how our human rights commitments are implemented.

What if I have questions or concerns?

If you have immediate concerns, questions, or suggestions, additional conversation hours will be scheduled in the coming weeks. A video of the 10 December 2021 conversation hour is available on Wikimedia Commons and written notes of the call are available on Meta-Wiki. You can email Richard Gaines (rgaines@wikimedia.org) and Ziski Putz (fputz@wikimedia.org) with any other questions.

Will this policy become available in other languages?

Yes, the Foundation will work to translate this policy in the coming weeks. They will be made available on the Wikimedia Foundation Governance Wiki.