Total Blackout: How Political Activism Challenges the Neutral Point of View
As a reaction to the EU copyright reform, several language versions of Wikipedia went dark in protest against a supposed threat to the freedom of the internet. This form of protest by single Wikipedia communities against specific political developments has happened before, yet there seems to be no best practice: not only the decision-making process, but also the technical implementation has differed heavily from time to time. Heated discussions and even counterprotests in the context of the blackout have shown that the community is strongly divided about the issue, raising a number of relevant questions: Can an encyclopedia based on a principle like the neutral point of view be a place for any form of political activism? Can a qualified number of users decide to just “shut down” the encyclopedia for all readers and a large majority of non-voting users? What should be the “correct” decision-making process for such a blackout? And how can the “most important” issues be identified, in order to avoid inflationary political protest?
This session will address the conference theme — Wikimedia, Free Knowledge and the Sustainable Development Goals — in the following manner:
The questions raised are focusing on the role of Wikipedia as an online encyclopedia dedicated to spreading free knowledge. Therefore, SDG 4 — education — is at stake: does political activism get in the way of educating people through neutral information or does it in contrast add to it and support general political education? SDG 16 — peace, justice and strong institutions — can be singled out as well: does knowledge alone contribute enough to these goals, which are ultimately achievable only in the political field, or is visible action and taking sides a must?
At the end of the session, the following will have been achieved:
- heard different opinions on the matter from international representatives of the Wikimedia movement
- pointed out the contradiction between Wikipedia’s NPOV and Wikimedia’s advocacy aims
- discussed the possible future handling of similar situations within the community