Submissions:2014/Digital Rights, Wikipedia, and Online Advocacy

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Title of the submission
Digital Rights, Wikipedia, and Online Advocacy
Themes (Proposal Themes - Community, Tech, Outreach, GLAM, Education)
Community, Outreach
Type of submission (Presentation Types - Panel, Workshop, Presentation, etc)
Author of the submission
Parker Higgins
E-mail address
US state or country of origin
San Francisco
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
Electronic Frontier Foundation

We often define Wikipedia by what it is not, and whenever the question of online advocacy comes up, the first response is likely to be: "Wikipedia is not a soapbox." And that's true, especially in the article space. Articles shouldn't favor any particular political stance or pitch a commercial product, because that's not within the mission of a free encyclopedia.

However, it's too simple to say that Wikipedia can just stay out of politics. Sometimes, as in the cases of the major digital civil liberties issues facing the Internet today, politics comes to you. When it comes to basic freedoms like the ability to read and write privately on a web free of censorship that is available to non-commercial actors, there are now more threats than ever.

Where policies or politics challenge Wikipedia's mission, it's not a violation of NPOV or WP:SOAP to say so. Wikipedia's dare to imagine a world where the sum of all human knowledge is available for free to everybody in the world is still a deeply political goal, and the hurdles it faces are political.

When it comes to tools that can be used for censorship—whether it's a copyright regime that has overflowed its banks, an abandonment of the principles of net neutrality that have allowed non-profit community sites to become top 10 resources worldwide, or an erosion of the online privacy people depend on for legitimate scholarly exploration—it is not just prudent for the Wikimedia community to take a stand; the future of the project can depend on it.

Wikipedia's involvement with the SOPA campaign was extraordinary. The conclusion certainly can't be that the site should get into frequent lobbying, but there are lessons we can learn about where and how to direct efforts and grassroots energy.