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Avsnitt 205

Inspelningsdatum: 3 december 2022

Publiceringsdatum: 21 december 2022


Extern länk:


Programledare är Jan Ainali.

Special episode

Interview with Dimi Dimitrov, Director of Public Policy at Wikimedia Europe, about the Big Fat Brussels Meeting VIII (where this episode was recorded).


and now we are hiring the third person in Brussels.
Now, this can be a bad thing as well,
because I always thought we get a lot of credibility
from lawmakers when we say, look, we are a small office.
I'm alone.
We're just two people trying to handle
all of Europe for Wikimedia.
This is Jan Ainali for WikipediaPodden in Brussels at the big fat Brussels meeting.
I'm here with Dimi Dimitrov for Wikimedia Europe, I think it is now.
Soon to be legally incorporated.
And what is the Big Fat Brussels Meeting?
It's a community and staff meeting that happens, well, used to happen every year.
Now with the pandemic, we had a break.
And that basically just makes sure
that all people who are interested in public policy and advocacy work in Europe come together once a year, share with each other what they work on, and then also decide on some priorities or solve some questions together.
Because there are quite a few questions around copyright, but also around privacy, where it
would be good if we as a movement have sort of a joint principled position.
And that's quite a lot of different kind of topics you touch on really there.
How is the interest from the people participating?
Are they unified or is it very diverse?
It's diverse enough, especially you
can see based on when people joined the movement,
whether they are rather recent or rather old,
that also the views on some things
have changed and developed.
Maybe it's a generational thing, who knows?
I mean, we're approaching this time
as a movement where we have different generations
of Wikimedians.
But I think the group is small enough.
We are 35 people here today.
It's small enough, and you can see that people
can unite around what they want to achieve.
So sometimes we argue about what's
the best way to get there.
So we argue a lot about tactics and about strategy,
but I think the overarching vision is there,
and we have it.
How has this meeting, perhaps, or perhaps even Wikimedia
advocacy, how has that evolved?
You have been involved in this for many years now.
How has this evolved from your viewpoint?
Well, when we started, we were basically a Wikipedia fan club
that cared narrowly about one single copyright
exception, which, yeah, I mean, back then, maybe you remember,
maybe many people remember.
We had a lot of discussions.
Do we even want to do advocacy and policy?
And then there was the SOPA, PIPA, ACTA files
that sort of pushed us over the line
and where it became clear.
Even if we don't want to be political,
we need to have a position on some laws
that will regulate Wikipedia.
So it evolved in that sense that now we're
looking at the internet and that knowledge sharing
in a much more global way.
So for instance, we have clear advocacy agendas
when it comes to access to knowledge,
but we also have a clear advocacy agenda
when it comes to protecting our users, the Wikimedia Foundation
users, that the Indian or the Iranian or the Chinese
or any other government shouldn't just
be able to come to us and ask us,
tell me what this person read on Wikipedia.
And this is basically not only happening in countries
where you would expect it, like you get such requests also
from the EU and in the US.
So it's very important that the laws are in place
so you can say, no, no, no.
Without the judge order, we won't give you anything.
And we are also looking at the infrastructure
already basically because if we really
want an equitable network, then everybody
needs to be able to connect to it.
And that is not very easy for us to advocate on.
It's also not our top priority because we're not
an internet service provider.
But we can still have a position that, for instance,
non-for-profit platforms should have an equal access
to internet traffic and internet exchange points
and that net neutrality is very important in order
so also smaller and non-for-profit organizations
get access to this global network.
So yeah, it's very holistic by now.
And of course, it started off with,
I think I was one of the first people who
got paid for advocacy, probably not the first one
because there was already somebody in Berlin.
But I started with a six-month part-time contract.
And now we are hiring the third person in Brussels.
Now, this can be a bad thing as well
because I always thought we get a lot of credibility
from lawmakers when we say, look, we're a small office.
I'm a loner.
We're just two people trying to handle
all of Europe for Wikimedia.
That came with some sympathies.
Now, when we say, yeah, we have somebody employed in Stockholm,
in Prague, in Berlin, in Brussels, and in Paris,
and in DC doing globally advocacy,
we cannot play the card that we're
this small underdog organization anymore.
But maybe we don't have to.
Maybe it's us from the, let's call it,
the non-for-profit community-driven internet
is completely underrepresented in all discussions.
It's mostly like rights holders and big tech companies
and some legislators arguing with each other.
So maybe this can be our role when
it comes to political discussions or policy
discussions, rather, that we need
to represent this portion of the internet that
wants to have a community, its citizens, its internet
citizens in the driving seat and not just be a private structure.
And for the meeting that is here now,
is there any specific topic that you
see the participants are excited about or feel is urgent?
There are quite a few things.
I just participated, I think, an hour ago
in a session on privacy.
And I found that there was a very complicated question
for us to answer and something that is already
a problem for us, but also for the Wikimedia Foundation
legally and that will increasingly become so.
Many, many jurisdictions introduce
rules where you need to check whether the user is
under or over 16 years old.
Theoretically, I mean, it's a bit unclear
whether the GDPR already introduced that or not.
Depending on the lawyer, they might
give you different questions.
But regardless of the GDPR, such legislation
is coming up in Australia and the UK and the US.
So it won't stop now.
And it is a real question that we need to answer.
Because we agree we want a safe space for all our users,
including children.
But we also agree as a principle that we
don't want to collect the data on our users.
And suddenly, when it comes to age verification,
it's like, in order to do this, we
need to collect more data, which would make us collect
more information about our users,
which we don't want to do.
But we also want to protect children.
So here, I think, is an opportunity for us
without being these people.
I mean, because we like privacy laws.
We don't need to go out and say, hey, let's abolish the GDPR.
No, but I think there is space in the political debate
for a very sane voice and an organization and the movement
that says, hey, we're trying to do things right.
But currently, the law is set up in a way
that there is a conflict.
Because in order to be respectful of people's privacy
and security, we need to collect more about them.
And I think this is a role we should play.
And hopefully, this will lead to a better political discussion
in Brussels and not just the extremists taking over.
Oh, yes.
Very interesting topic, yeah.
Finally, what do you hope that the participants go home
and take with them and what they're doing next?
Not what's happening on your plate,
but what do you hope that others will do after this?
First of all, I think what many of the participants
need after not having been together physically
for quite a long time is that the participants, they just
need to get energized again.
They need to be in a room for two days
with people who think like them or that they can exchange ideas
with in order to feel like, yeah, I'm really part of a group
and I really want to do this.
Because we've seen that over the past two, three years,
many people who are active, they just
don't have the energy anymore.
And I feel like I would like them to be re-energized.
And then we were also discussing that doing public policy
and advocacy, there is this very clear standard legislative side
to it where you look at laws and suggest amendments, simply put.
But there is also this image-making side to it.
So you need to be in a position where people listen to you.
And for this, we need more what we
called hearts and minds events and initiatives,
basically showing that making people just
see what Wikipedia is and see that it's fun.
And it can be a Wikichese event that we organized here
in Brussels.
It can be other initiatives.
So for instance, many Wikipedia have special rules
during elections in their countries.
I don't know how it's in Sweden, but for instance, in Bulgaria,
we lock politicians' articles during the official election
campaign, which is one month, the last four weeks
before the election date.
Because we're like about 100 active people, probably,
at any given time.
And during an election campaign, there
are literally thousands of PR professionals
who are going around the internet
and trying to improve the image of their clients.
And it's impossible for us to stop it
in this short amount of time.
So we tend to log these articles.
I'm sure many other language versions
have such special rules.
I know for the Spanish Wikipedia that they have such a rule.
It would be interesting if we could sort of map this out
and see which Wikipedia has which rules, because this then
would also be very interesting for politicians
to look at, because now in every single country,
they're discussing disinformation
and how to assure credible information,
and also discussing campaign rules, and advertising rules,
and online content moderation rules.
I think without advocating directly
for one or another procedure, just by mapping this out
into saying, hey, here, this is how 27 Wikipedias do it
differently or do it the same, that would just
be something interesting that people can read.
So I mean, this would be something
that I would love to see.
So if anybody's listening and would
like to work with me on such a project, please get in touch.
Oh, great.
Thank you for taking the time, Dimi, for talking to this.
And thank you for organizing the Big Fat Brussels meeting.
Thank you.
This was actually a lot of fun.
Thank you.
This was Jan Ainali interviewing Dimi Dimitrov
in the first of three episodes from the Big Fat Brussels
You'll find upcoming episodes under the tag Big Fat Brussels
meeting on
You can also find more episodes in English
there under the tag English.
Both are, of course, linked in the show notes.
And I'll see you next time.