Non-profit

Wikimedia Foundation

Website:

wikimediafoundation.org/%20

Location:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Tax ID:

20-0049703

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2019):

Revenue: $118,589,500
Expenses: $90,058,977
Assets: $176,019,709

Type:

Nonprofit Open-Source Wiki

Formation:

2003

CEO:

Maryana Iskander

The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit umbrella organization overseeing Wikipedia, MediaWiki, Wikisource, and other projects. Its stated mission is to gather and disseminate knowledge around the world at no cost to recipients. [1]

Founding

In 1999, entrepreneur Jimmy Wales founded Nupedia, a for-profit company that distributed a free online encyclopedia. In 2001, Wales and his employee, philosopher Larry Sanger, started Wikipedia, a bottom-up encyclopedia website designed to provide content to Nupedia. As Wikipedia rapidly supplanted Nupedia, Wales closed down Nupedia.

In 2003, Wales founded the Wikimedia Foundation to house Wikipedia. [2]

Structure

The Wikimedia Foundation was established to support Wikipedia, and has since developed eleven branches: Wikimedia Commons, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikibooks, Wikisource, Wikispecies, Wikinews, Wikiversity, Wikidata, Wikivoyage, and MediaWiki. [3]

Funding

In 2019, the Wikimedia Foundation generated $124,631,267, nearly all of which came from donations. [4] The average donation was about $15. [5] The Wikimedia Foundation also receives large donations from nonprofits and companies. Its largest donors (above $50,000) include the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and the Argosy Foundation. [6]

In March 2021, the Daily Dot asked “Wikipedia is swimming in money—why is it begging people to donate?” The article criticized the Wikimedia Foundation’s aggressive fundraising, which included hanging up banners around the world asking for donations. The organization had raised its total fundraising by $200 million to about $300 million over the previous five years. In 2016, Wikimedia established an endowment under the Tides Foundation, a left-of-center pass-through funder, with the goal of establishing a $100 million endowment by 2025. Wikimedia met its goal five years ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, an estimate made within Wikimedia in 2013 stated that the organization could reach a $10 million annual budget. [7]

In October 2021, the Wikimedia Foundation launched Wikimedia Enterprise, the organization’s first for-profit venture. Wikimedia Enterprise provides means of compiling and sifting through large-scale content from Wikipedia and its other projects. [8]

International Controversies

Russia

Wikipedia has faced ongoing threatened censorship from the Russian government. In 2015, Russia blocked Wikipedia for less than a day due to a page on charas, a type of cannabis. Wikipedia was ordered to remove the article, which it refused. The block was revoked after the page was edited to remove instructions on how to use charas. [9]

On March 1, 2022, after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the Russian government issued an order to the Wikimedia Foundation to remove content posted to Russian Wikipedia regarding the invasion. Wikimedia and Russia Wikimedia, the independent affiliate, refused the takedown order. [10] The following week, a Russia Wikipedia editor was arrested in Belarus for violating a Russian “fake news” censorship law. [11]

China

Wikipedia has intermittently been censored in China since 2004. In 2019, all Wikipedia sites were indefinitely blocked. The Wikimedia Foundation received no warning or reason for the permanent block, though it coincided with the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy protestors. [12]

In September 2021, the Wikimedia Foundation banned seven Chinese Wikipedia editors and removed 12 pro-China administrators over “infiltration concerns” by the Chinese government. The banned individuals were found to be systematically editing articles to promote pro-Chinese government perspectives. The Wikimedia Foundation was accused of bias against China, but the organization stated the bans were “a result of long and deep investigations” and constituted a rare exception in its typical neutrality. [13]

NSA Lawsuit

In March 2015, the Wikimedia Foundation sued the U.S. National Security Agency alleging First Amendment violations concerning its surveillance operations on American citizens. The Wikimedia Foundation’s announcement attributed the lawsuit to revelations made by Edward Snowden. [14]

Other Controversies

Editor Banning

On June 10, 2019, the Wikimedia Foundation banned a Wikipedia editor who went by the screen name “Fram” for one year. Fram was a prolific editor who had worked on the site since 2005 and was made an administrator in 2007 and had a reputation both for obsessively enforcing editorial policies and for being uncivil in interpersonal disputes. After two warnings for misconduct by the Wikimedia Foundation, Fram was banned. [15]

The ban prompted an immediate backlash by the editor community which culminated in a 470,000 word discussion within one month. Multiple Wikipedia editors and one bot resigned in protest. The reaction was based on the perception that the Wikimedia Foundation was overstepping its traditional bounds by interfering with the largely self-regulating editorial community. [16]

Editing “Wars”

Wikipedia editors have engaged in editing and counter-editing on profiles dealing with contentious political and cultural issues. For instance, as of 2016, the Wikipedia page for former President George W. Bush was the most edited page of all time. [17]

In the early 2020s, Hindu nationalists and secularists clashed over the editing of articles pertaining to Indian history and the Indian National Congress political party, with nationalists alleging bias against the Bharatiya Janata Party of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. [18]

In November 2021, a group of Wikipedia editors lobbied for the deletion of the “mass killings under communist regimes” page on the grounds that it demonstrated an anti-communist bias. A panel of Wikipedia administrators ultimately could not come to a consensus on the issue, and the article was not deleted. [19] [20]

Left-Wing Bias

In July 2021, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger deemed Wikipedia “propaganda” for left-leaning “establishment” views. Sanger claimed that especially in political articles, right-leaning sources and views are systematically blocked by editors. Meanwhile, controversies are only reported if they receive attention from the mainstream media, while controversies that reveal criticisms of left-leaning organizations or ideas are ignored. [21]

References

  1. “Wikimedia Foundation Mission.” Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://wikimediafoundation.org/about/mission/#:~:text=The%20mission%20of%20the%20Wikimedia,disseminate%20it%20effectively%20and%20globally. ^
  2. “Jimmy Wales.” Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://wikimediafoundation.org/profile/jimmy-wales/. ^
  3. “Frequently Asked Question.” Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://donate.wikimedia.org/wiki/FAQ#:~:text=The%20Wikimedia%20Foundation%20is%20funded,want%20to%20sustain%20its%20future. ^
  4. Wikimedia Foundation, Return of an Organization Exempt From Income Tax (Form 990), 2019. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/200049703/05_2021_prefixes_13-20%2F200049703_202006_990_2021051818123817. ^
  5. “Frequently Asked Question.” Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://donate.wikimedia.org/wiki/FAQ#:~:text=The%20Wikimedia%20Foundation%20is%20funded,want%20to%20sustain%20its%20future. ^
  6. “Benefactors.” Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://wikimediafoundation.org/support/benefactors/#section-1. ^
  7. Kolbe, Andreas. “Wikipedia is swimming in money – why is it begging people to donate?” Daily Dot. May 24, 2021. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://www.dailydot.com/debug/wikipedia-endownemnt-fundraising/. ^
  8. “Wikimedia Foundation launches Wikimedia Enterprise: the new, opt-in product for companies and organizations to easily reuse content from Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects.” Wikimedia Foundation. October 25, 2021. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://wikimediafoundation.org/news/2021/10/25/wikimedia-foundation-launches-wikimedia-enterprise-the-new-opt-in-product-for-companies-and-organizations-to-easily-reuse-content-from-wikipedia-and-wikimedia-projects/. ^
  9. Toor, Amas. “Russia banned Wikipedia because it couldn’t censor pages.” The Verge. August 27, 2015. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://www.theverge.com/2015/8/27/9210475/russia-wikipedia-ban-censorship. ^
  10. “The Wikimedia Foundation stands with its communities around the world in defending free knowledge in the face of threats from the Russian Government.” Wikimedia Foundation. March 3, 2022. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://wikimediafoundation.org/news/2022/03/03/wikimedia-foundation-stands-with-communities-defending-free-knowledge/. ^
  11. Moon, Mariella. “Prominent editor of Russian Wikipedia pages detained in Belarus.” Yahoo! March 12, 2022. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://www.yahoo.com/now/mark-bernstein-russian-wikipedia-pages-detained-in-belarus-104102452.html. ^
  12. Harrison, Stephen. “Why China Blocked Wikipedia in All Languages.” Slate. May 21, 2019. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://slate.com/technology/2019/05/wikipedia-china-block-censorship-tiananmen-square.html. ^
  13. Sharma, Unnati. “Wikipedia bans Chinese editors, pro-Beijing editors call it ‘well-calculated suppression’.” The Print. October 30, 2021. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://theprint.in/world/wikipedia-bans-chinese-editors-pro-beijing-editors-call-it-well-calculated-suppression/759159/. ^
  14. “Wikimedia Foundation sues NSA over surveillance.” BBC. March 10, 2015. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-31813289. ^
  15. Harrison, Stephen. “Wikipedia’s “Constitutional Crisis” Pits Community Against Foundation.” Slate. July 2, 2019. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://slate.com/technology/2019/07/wikipedia-fram-banning-editor-controversy.html. ^
  16. [1] Harrison, Stephen. “Wikipedia’s “Constitutional Crisis” Pits Community Against Foundation.” Slate. July 2, 2019. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://slate.com/technology/2019/07/wikipedia-fram-banning-editor-controversy.html. ^
  17. Bogart, Nicole. “George W. Bush has the most edited Wikipedia page of all time.” Global News. January 15, 2016. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://globalnews.ca/news/2455875/george-w-bush-has-the-most-edited-wikipedia-page-of-all-time/. ^
  18. Benjakob, Omer. “A vicious culture war is tearing through Wikipedia.” Wired. May 11, 2020. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/wikipedia-culture-war. ^
  19. Simpson, Craig. “Wikipedia may delete entry on ‘mass killings’ under Communism due to claims of bias.” Telegraph. November 27, 2021. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/11/27/wikipedia-may-delete-entry-mass-killings-communism-due-claims/. ^
  20. “Wikipedia: Articles for deletion/Mass killings under communist regimes (4th nomination).” Wikipedia. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Mass_killings_under_communist_regimes_(4th_nomination)&oldid=1058229721. ^
  21. Brown, Lee. “Wikipedia co-founder says site is now ‘propaganda’ for left-leaning ‘establishment.’” New York Post. July 16, 2021. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://nypost.com/2021/07/16/wikipedia-co-founder-says-site-is-now-propaganda-for-left-leaning-establishment/. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Zack Exley
    Former Chief Community Officer
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: March 1, 2005

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2019 Jun Form 990 $118,589,500 $90,058,977 $176,019,709 $10,378,284 Y $115,839,832 $0 $2,819,486 $1,788,929 PDF
    2018 Jun Form 990 $101,575,555 $78,731,219 $145,850,778 $10,901,208 Y $99,036,753 $0 $1,774,136 $1,961,982 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $89,973,967 $69,076,192 $120,524,697 $7,194,500 Y $88,816,654 $0 $1,287,010 $1,356,535
    2016 Jun Form 990 $78,691,737 $65,061,845 $97,642,735 $5,859,940 Y $78,151,457 $25,498 $1,089,009 $1,275,026
    2015 Jun Form 990 $78,127,085 $52,452,126 $82,753,985 $4,933,687 Y $77,451,505 $78,112 $681,042 $1,371,234 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $52,990,491 $45,040,391 $60,560,774 $7,085,753 Y $52,647,756 $64,959 $555,363 $880,589 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990 $45,667,316 $35,171,555 $48,146,893 $2,957,769 Y $45,272,234 $306,705 $71,112 $392,529 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $39,702,445 $28,964,052 $37,206,891 $2,277,833 Y $38,990,502 $718,685 $50,814 $412,218 PDF
    2011 Jun Form 990 $27,191,806 $17,540,278 $26,165,567 $1,973,423 N $26,440,538 $819,816 $34,559 $367,199 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Wikimedia Foundation

    149 NEW MONTGOMERY ST 5TH FL
    SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94105-3747