Wikipedia needs a security bill exception

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Wikipedia needs a security bill exception, the foundation says

A leading member of the Wikipedia Foundation says Wikipedia should be treated differently from large social media companies in online safety bills.

This encyclopedia is written and edited entirely by thousands of volunteers around the world.

Rebecca MacKinnon of the Wikimedia Foundation also said proposed changes to the bill would “restrict free speech”.

The Act aims to protect people from harmful content online.

The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit corporation that hosts the encyclopedia.

Ms. MacKinnon said the foundation was concerned about the bill’s impact on volunteer-run websites.

She told the BBC that the ultimatum of tough new criminal penalties for tech bosses would not only take hold of big companies, but it also public interest sites like Wikipedia.

Ms. MacKinnon said the law should follow the EU Digital Services Act, which, she argued, made a distinction between centralized content moderation by staff and Wikipedia-style moderation by community volunteers.

The government told the BBC the bill aimed to strike a balance between addressing harm and not placing unnecessary burdens on low-risk tech companies.

The regulator of com will take a logical and proportionate take aside in monitoring and enforcing the safety duties outlined in the Act, focusing on services with the highest risk of harm, it said.

Multiplayer game

How sites are treated under the Act depends in part on their size.

But lawyers also pointed out that some of the duties in the bill, touted as a way to rein in big tech, would affect much smaller services where users can communicate with other users.

Nearly 50 Conservative MPs want changes to the Online Safety Act to introduce two years in prison for managers who fail to prevent children from viewing harmful material.

Ministers are now promising similar proposals under a deal with the rebels to avoid defeat.

Neil Brown, a lawyer specializing in internet and telecommunications law, told the BBC: “The bill and the modification will obtrude duties on those who operate their social media or photo/video sharing servers for entertainment, or host page multiplayer games, allowing Players chat or view each other’s content or creations.”

He suggested limiting the scope of the bill to major commercial operators with multi-million-pound turnover would help “remove the burden and threat to enthusiasts and volunteers”.

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Wikipedia is the eighth most visited website in the UK, according to software company similar web, but everything on the site is produced by volunteers, with the community deciding what is acceptable.

Ms. MacKinnon said it had become entangled in a network of centralized decision-making designed for sites such as Facebook and Instagram.

She said the foundation believed in community decision-making and was not involved in articles, but the bill could force it to intervene if volunteer editors continued to publish articles that could break UK law.

It forced the foundation to break out of the band version and take the initiative, she said.

However, the government said a site like Wikipedia would be able to develop its approach to community management as long as it tackled illegal content and protected children.

Officials are understood to have considered it unlikely that Wikipedia would be classified as a Category 1 service, subject to the strictest rules.

Ms. MacKinnon said any changes in the UK would affect readers of all English-language versions of Wikipedia, including those in the US, such as “UK Regulatory World”, she said.

Harmful definition

Wikipedia articles cover topics such as sex, pornography, drug use, and suicide, which some might consider harmful to children.

The measures in the bill mean it worries it may have to check users’ ages, which would require gathering more information about readers, something Wikipedia tries to avoid.

For example, Ms. MacKinnon said a page about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was illegal in Russia.

Age verification could mean collecting information about readers, which could then be requested by the government or hacked.

It even ends up hurting everyone more, including children, she said.

Blunt instrument

Plans to change the bill so that those who break the rules could face jail for failing to protect children online have won cross-party support, with Labor backing the change.

Several prominent children’s charities and activists also offered support.

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Wikipedia needs different security rules, says foundation

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