The Wikimedia Foundation has supported free access to the sum of all knowledge for nearly sixteen years. This longstanding vision would not be possible without the dedication of community members who contribute content to the Wikimedia projects. As a global platform for free knowledge, we are sometimes approached by governments and private parties with requests to delete or change project content, or to release nonpublic user information. The Foundation consistently evaluates such requests with an eye towards protecting privacy and freedom of expression. We are committed to sharing data about our responses to these requests with the diverse communities of Wikimedians who contribute to the projects we support.
Twice a year, we publish a transparency report outlining the number of requests we received, their types, countries of origin, and other information. The report also features an FAQ and stories about interesting and unusual cases.
A few highlights:
Content alteration and takedown requests. From July to December of 2018, we received 492 requests to alter or remove project content. We did not make any changes to project content as a result, but often encouraged the requesters to work with the user communities to address their concerns. 195 of these requests were Right to Erasure-based requests related to user accounts. When we receive such a request, we provide the user information on the community-driven vanishing process.
The volunteer contributors who build, grow, and improve the Wikimedia projects follow community-created policies that ensure project content is appropriate and well-sourced. We support the communities’ prerogative to determine what educational content belongs on the projects.
Copyright takedown requests. The Wikimedia communities work diligently to ensure that copyrighted material is not uploaded to the projects without an appropriate free license or exception, such as fair use. Most Wikimedia project content is therefore freely licensed or in the public domain. When we occasionally receive Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices asking us to remove allegedly infringing material, we conduct thorough investigations to make sure the claims are valid. From July to December of 2018, we received only five DMCA requests, and granted none of them. This low number is due to the hard work of community volunteers who ensure that content on the projects is properly licensed.
Requests for user data. The Wikimedia Foundation only grants requests for user data that comply with our requests for user information procedures and guidelines (which includes a provision for emergency conditions). The Foundation also collects little nonpublic user information in the first place, as part of our commitment to user privacy, and retains that information for a short amount of time. Of the 24 user data requests we received, only four resulted in disclosure of nonpublic user information.
In addition to updating the online report, we have also released an updated version of our print edition, providing detailed figures for the last six months of requests. These print versions will be available at Wikimedia Foundation events.
The Wikimedia Foundation’s biannual transparency report reaffirms our commitment to transparency, privacy, and freedom of expression. It also reflects the diligent work of the Wikimedia community members who shape the projects. We invite you to learn more about requests we received in the past six months in our comprehensive transparency report. For information about past reports, please see our previous blog posts.
Jim Buatti, Legal Counsel
Leighanna Mixter, Legal Counsel
Aeryn Palmer, Senior Legal Counsel
The transparency report would not be possible without the contributions of Jacob Rogers, Katie Francis, Rachel Stallman, Stella Chang, Benson Chao, Linnea Doan, Joe Sutherland, Patrick Johnson, Prateek Saxena, Jan Gerlach, and the Wikimedia Foundation’s Digital Media team. The print edition of the report is produced by Oscar Printing Company.