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Wikipedia provides social model for good internet governance, says founder

Warwick Ashford

The greatest threat to cyberspace is not cyber criminals, but misguided and over-reaching government policy, according to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Government controls are not the solution; people who are building the internet have found better ways of solving problems and ensuring good governance, he told attendees of the London Conference on Cyberspace.

Wikipedia administrators, for example, could be seen as the most powerful media barons that have ever lived, said Wales, but in reality they are governed by rules created by the community and are subject to the scrutiny of that community, which will remove them if those rules are broken.

"There is a formal structure that has grown organically over time to resolve problems through the social process of dialogue," he said.

Wales contrasted this approach with the proposed US Stop Online Piracy Act, which would give the government the ability to block websites in the US and abroad which traffic counterfeit goods, illegal software and other copyrighted goods.

This is badly designed legislation, he said, that could impact negatively on people like Wikipedia volunteers by setting a dangerous precedent.

There are better ways of dealing with problems on the internet than relying on top-down legislation from governments, concluded Wales, such as the community mechanisms used by Wikipedia and other internet-based organisations.


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