Open letter on the Global Digital Compact from Wikimedia Australia and the Wikimedia Foundation

To His Excellency Mr James Larsen, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
, Amanda Lawrence.

Dear Ambassador Larsen,

I am writing to share with you an open letter calling on UN Member States to include commitments in the Global Digital Compact that can allow online public interest projects, such as Wikipedia, to thrive. By protecting these projects and the communities that create them, the international community can ensure that the digital environment advances sustainable development and human rights.

The open letter, which is being made public today and can be found online here (or at the Wikimedia Foundation website), was drafted by Wikimedia Australia in collaboration with the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that hosts Wikipedia and other volunteer-run free and open knowledge projects, and twelve other independent Wikimedia affiliate organizations.

The Global Digital Compact Zero Draft, published on April 1st, 2024 states: “Digital technologies are dramatically transforming our world. They offer immense potential benefits for the wellbeing and advancement of people, societies, and for our planet.” We believe that by protecting and supporting Wikipedia’s model of decentralized, open and inclusive platform governance, the international community can create policy environments that maximize technology’s benefit to society that the Global Digital Compact envisions. The key is to center the role of communities in creation, deployment, and governance of digital technologies and platforms.

The signatories of this open letter call on the UN Member States to embrace a positive vision for the internet’s future in which diverse communities anywhere are empowered and supported to build and operate free and open knowledge projects.

Today we outline the three key commitments that we would like to see in the final version of the Global Digital Compact, which we believe are fundamental to realizing a version of the internet which is open, global, interoperable, inclusive, and grounded in human rights.

  1. Protect and empower communities to govern online public interest projects. Free knowledge projects such as Wikipedia should not be rare. UN Member States should — through regulation, public policy, funding, and other resources — support a world where diverse online communities can build and govern their own public interest projects, designing them to be equitable and contributing to a healthier online information ecosystem.
  2. Promote and protect digital public goods by supporting a robust digital commons from which everyone, everywhere can benefit.Digital public goods such as Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects aim to make multilingual and intercultural information freely accessible to everyone. A thriving public domain that enables the sharing of free and openly licensed content for everyone to use and reuse is key to advancing many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  3. Build and deploy Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to support and empower, not replace, people who create content and make decisions in the public interest.AI and machine learning tools should support, and not replace, the work of humans. They should be designed and deployed in a manner consistent with international human rights standards, ensuring clear and consistent attribution. Such tools should also ensure participation and control by affected communities through transparent, accountable, and open processes.

The full potential of the internet—i.e., enabling collaboration, broadening access to knowledge, and advancing social progress—depends on a united effort from governments, policymakers, and civil society to protect public interest spaces online.

We hope that these suggestions can be useful as you approach the next phase of the Global Digital Compact negotiations, and that you will consider including it in your own input.

For more context about the open letter being shared with the media, the Wikimedia Foundation’s press release can be found here.

We remain at your disposal should you wish to discuss these points further.

With warm regards,

Dr Amanda Lawrence

President, Wikimedia Australia Board

Discuss this page