Wikimedia launches petition against UK Online Safety Bill

Wikimedia Foundation has written an open letter to the UK Parliament asking that Wikipedia be exempted from provisions in the Online Safety Bill, which it says would jeopardize open-source nonprofit knowledge platforms.

“The UK’s Online Safety Bill (OSB) addresses important safety issues to protect children and adults online,” Wikimedia UK and Wikimedia Foundation said in the letter. “However, in its current state, the Bill unduly threatens the survival and welfare of projects that prioritize the public interest over profits. The Bill neglects to protect free knowledge, privacy, freedom of speech, and the strength of civic society in the UK.”

Wikimedia is urging the public to sign a petition to the UK Parliament, aiming to convince it to introduce a clause at the next reading of the Bill on July 6th that they say would stop the ONS unduly compromising free learning on the internet.

To date, the petition has been endorsed by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, Big Brother Watch, Creative Commons, Liberty, the London College of Communication, and Open Rights Group.

That list of high-profile signatories is far from exhaustive, and UK citizens wishing to add their names can find the petition and open letter here.

“The signatory coalition represented in this letter includes organisations from across the cultural, scientific, and charitable landscape,” said Wikimedia. “They run or support projects that are used by and benefit a wide cross-section of the UK public: from young people to retirees, professionals to amateurs, and those with global, national, or hyper-local interests.”

It added: “Wikipedia, open science initiatives, crowdsourced UK heritage catalogues, and other public interest projects are the most socially, culturally, and scientifically valuable parts of the web.”

Wikimedia further claims to have support from members of the UK’s upper chamber the House of Lords, where the next reading of the Bill will take place. Wikimedia says a simple addition to Schedule 1, exempting “public interest projects” from the proposed law, would avert what it says amounts to an infringement of the right to access knowledge freely online.

“In an attempt to weed out the worst parts of the internet, the OSB jeopardises the best parts of the internet,” it added.

The Bill’s advocates say that it will safeguard children and adults on the worldwide web, holding social media companies like Meta and Twitter more responsible for harmful content that's posted on their platforms, such as that which promotes child sexual abuse, terrorism, or violence.

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