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Photo by Victor Grigas, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The Wikimedia Foundation works to expand free and open access to knowledge everywhere, including areas where affordable access to the internet is a fundamental barrier.

In some regions, the Foundation has utilized “zero-rating” to make mobile traffic to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia sites entirely free. This approach removes the barrier of cost for those wishing to read, learn, and contribute to Wikipedia, in any language. We call this program Wikipedia Zero. Today, more than 600 million people in 64 countries can read, edit, and contribute to Wikipedia through Wikipedia Zero partnerships.

Recently, Facebook’s zero rating program, Free Basics, has come under public scrutiny in India. Facebook’s Free Basics includes Wikipedia as one of its services, but we wish to be clear that neither Wikipedia nor the Wikimedia Foundation are partners of Free Basics. Wikipedia is included in the Free Basics package through our free license. In line with our open policies, anyone can use and distribute Wikipedia content without formal permission.

We have our own approach to zero rating that we believe respects the fundamental values of the Wikimedia movement. This approach was first articulated in our Operating Principles, which are used in considering each Wikipedia Zero partnership.

Our guiding concepts are:

  • No collection of personal information. Carriers receive the IP addresses of sites that will be zero-rated so that they can identify Wikipedia Zero traffic. Wikipedia Zero does not enable carriers to collect or receive personal information about Wikimedia users.
  • No compromise of experience. Carriers zero-rate access to the regular mobile version of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites. To ensure users do not mistakenly incur data charges, they are prompted with a notice if they are about to leave a zero-rated page.
  • No shift of editorial control. Wikipedia articles and other Wikimedia content are community curated and will remain that way. Zero-rating agreements do not shift editorial considerations, responsibilities, or policies. In fact, partnerships are meant to extend access to local Wikimedia volunteers and chapters around the world and aid in their community work.
  • No exchange of payment. The Wikimedia Foundation does not pay carriers to zero-rate access to the Wikimedia sites and does not receive payments from carriers through Wikipedia Zero.
  • No exclusive rights. We try to partner with as many carriers as possible to maximize the number of users that can benefit from the initiative.
  • No commercial bundling. Access to the Wikimedia sites through Wikipedia Zero cannot be sold through limited service bundles.
  • Commitment to collaboration with other public interest sites. Our main goal is to promote free access to knowledge, and we want to help other similar services interested in doing the same (just contact us!).

As a Foundation dedicated to free and open access to knowledge for all, we yearn for affordable internet around the world. Until then, we will continue working to bring free access to knowledge to every person on the planet.

Adele Vrana, Head of Strategic Partnerships, Global Emerging Markets
Smriti Gupta, Regional Manager, Strategic Partnerships—Asia
Wikimedia Foundation

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