Shrinking Spaces for Civil Society on the Web: Wikipedia blocks in Turkey and China
In the last years civil society organizations have been facing more difficulties to perform their activities in different countries. “Shrinking spaces” is a term used to describe a complex set of attempts to restrict these activities, mostly carried out by state actors. They include administrative measures, such as strong bureaucratic barriers for an office installation and for the obtainment of a professional visa, or disproportionate tax control and restrictions to international funding. Besides that, many NGOs are having their gatherings controlled and their volunteers and staff are suffering psychological and physical threats, being often criminalised or imprisoned without a substantiated legal justification. This all happens accompanied by rumors and fake news to discredit the organizations’ work.
Shrinking spaces can also be found on the web. Civil society organizations involved in digital transformation are equally affected by this phenomenon. Wikipedia for example, the largest Wikimedia project, has been blocked in Turkey in all languages editions since 2017. The same has happened several times to the online encyclopedia in China since 2008. Today, the access to Wikipedia in China is blocked in all languages. Other organizations, like Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders frequently go through similar blocks and restrictions in different countries. Another variant is open or covert influence by state actors on the content level, exploiting open community structures to bias content towards government interests. This, for example, has occurred in Russia, where state orchestrated editing tries to influence open knowledge projects towards more reflecting the official interpretation especially regarding present-day political events and “national” history.
This session will address the conference theme — Wikimedia, Free Knowledge and the Sustainable Development Goals — in the following manner:
The session relates to the Wikimedia projects' role regarding the UN SDGs 4 (Education, access to information), 10 (Lowering inequality through open structures) and also 16 (Peace and Justice, for example by keeping open spaces for minorities). Given the abovementioned scenarios of repeated blocks, threats to access of information and freedom of expression as well as attempted influence on the content level, the necessity of a strategy articulation to address this topic is obvious to many. How should the WM Movement respond to that? Which other stakeholders could support us to a broader approach? How can global cooperation be strengthened in order to ensure visibility of these fundamental rights violations? At the same time, can and should certain Wikimedia Chapters or Usergroups play a role as a backbone of the diaspora communities of blocked Wikipedias?
At the end of the session, the following will have been achieved:
- Awareness of increasing situations of shrinking spaces is arosen
- An exchange between the audience on similar cases around the world has taken place
- Brainstorming on ideas for cooperations and campaigns will have been made
- Andressa Barp Seufert (WMDE)
- Bernd Fiedler (WMDE)
Affiliation/country (if any)[edit | edit source]
- Wikimedia Deutschland e. V. (German Chapter)
Each Space at Wikimania 2019 will have specific format requests. The program design prioritises submissions which are future-oriented and directly engage the audience. The format of this submission is a:
- Roundtable discussion forum
The session will work best with these conditions:
A not-too-small room with roundtable seating
Up to 30, no previous knowledge required
Not quite clear whether a round table is so suitable for recording, but remains tbd ...