Resolution: Commissioning Recommendations from the Executive Director

From Wikimedia Foundation Governance Wiki
Resolutions Commissioning Recommendations from the Executive Director Feedback?
This resolution requesting research from the Executive Director by the fall Board meeting was approved with 8 approvals in June 2010.
Questions and answers on the resolution are available.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

We therefore resolve that:

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.

Motion: Jan-Bart
Approved: 9-0; 1 abstaining.