The Wikimedia movement is both global and very ideologically diverse, and
has many contributors who have strong opinions in one direction or another
on certain political issues facing their area of the world. Many of these
contributors find it difficult to avoid using Wikimedia forums and
institutions to discuss or advocate for issues they feel very strongly
about. Recently, political advocacy on Wikimedia forums has risen
substantially, especially on this mailing list.

While I sympathize with the difficulties these contributors face in
remaining silent, it is important to consider the substantial damage such
actions can cause to the movement. We will be much worse off if half of any
given country's political spectrum can no longer cooperate in our mission
due to compunctions against supporting a community which hosts those who
use the community to advocate for positions that some may find
unacceptable. The issue of inadvertently alienating participants because of
politics has a self-reinforcing element: As we lose contributors
representing ideological areas, we have fewer willing to advocate for an
environment which allows them to participate without being bombarded by
hostile political advocacy. We are precariously close to the point of no
return on this, but I am optimistic that the situation is recoverable.

As an initial measure, I propose adding the names of a certain country's
top political leaders to this list's spam filter. More generally, I think a
stricter stance on avoiding political advocacy on Wikimedia projects is

We face a somewhat more difficult situation with the Wikimedia Foundation
itself. Partly as a result of being relatively localized within a
geographic area and further limited to several professions, I suspect the
Foundation tends to be more politically/ideologically homogeneous. With the
WMF, we risk much more than just alienating much of the world, we risk our

How far we must go to maintain neutrality has been a contentious issue over
the years. Existential threats have twice been responded to with major
community action, each with large prior discussion. (SOPA included an
extensive discussion and a poll with more than 500 respondents.) A previous
ED committed to firing everyone but part of the Ops team rather than accept
advertising, should lack of funds require it. (Whether to let the WMF die
outright rather than accept ads is as of yet unresolved.) More recently,
the WMF has taken limited actions and stances on public policy that
directly relate to the mission. A careful balance has been established
between maintaining essential neutrality and dealing with direct threats to
the projects.

Three days ago, the WMF put out a statement on the Wikimedia blog
explicitly urging a specific country to modify its refugee policy, an area
that does not relate to our goals. There was no movement-wide prior
discussion, or any discussion at all as far as I can tell.

It is the responsibility of the Board at this point to set a policy to
place firm restrictions on which areas the WMF can take positions. While we
value the important contributions of the staff, they should not be able to
override our commitment to neutrality. Our donors, editors, and other
volunteers do not contribute so that resources and influence can be spent
towards whatever political causes are popular within the WMF.

It is the responsibility of the community to ensure that our projects
remain apolitical. A neutral point of view is impossible if participating
requires a certain political position.

It is the responsibility of the mailing list administration and moderators
to act against this list's rapid slide into unreadability.

Thank you.

-- Yair Rand
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