Wikipedia will not perform Online Safety Bill age checks

According to its foundation, Wikipedia will not submit to any age verifications mandated by the Online Safety Bill.

It would violate the Wikimedia Foundation’s pledge to only collect minimal information about readers and contributors, according to Rebecca MacKinnon, who works for the organisation that supports the website.

Wikipedia will not perform Online Safety Bill age checks

A senior member of Wikimedia UK is concerned that the website might be blocked as a result.

However, according to the government, only services that pose the greatest risk to children will require age verification.

There are millions of entries on Wikipedia, created and edited by tens of thousands of volunteers from all over the world in hundreds of different languages.

According to data from analytics company SimilarWeb, it is the seventh most popular website in the UK.

The Online Safety Bill, which is presently before Parliament, will completely take effect sometime in 2024 and requires digital companies to safeguard users from harmful or illegal information.

According to Neil Brown, a lawyer who specialises in internet and telecoms law, the bill requires services that kids are likely to access to have “proportionate systems and processes” in place to shield them from dangerous information. That might entail a check of your age.

Some content on the website may require age verification, according to Lucy Crompton-Reid, CEO of Wikimedia UK, a separate nonprofit connected to the foundation.

She cited the possibility that text and images intended for educational purposes regarding sexuality could be mistaken for pornography.

The Wikimedia Foundation, however, would not be checking the age of UK viewers or contributors, Ms. MacKinnon stated.

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Checking ages would necessitate both the collection of user data by Wikipedia and a “drastically overhaul” of technical infrastructure.

If a service violates the law, there may be severe repercussions, such as hefty fines, criminal charges against senior workers, or restrictions on access to a service in the UK.

Wikimedia UK worries that the Bill and the possibility that it will need age checks will result in the site being blocked.

According to Ms. Crompton-Reid, it was “definitely possible” that one of the most popular websites in the world, which is a crucial source of free knowledge and information for millions of people, wouldn’t be available to UK readers (let alone UK-based authors).

She claimed it was “impossible to imagine” how Wikipedia, which presently has 6.6 million entries, would manage to vet content to comply with the bill.

“Across Wikipedia’s 300+ languages, there are two edits per second globally,” she continued.

The organisation previously claimed that the legislation would radically alter how the website worked by requiring it to use paid editors rather than volunteer moderators.


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