Wikia's Upcoming Policy Changes
Hey everyone. Thought I would use the Forums for this so everyone is notified about it. (I'm also trying to work on migrating myself and everyone else away from blogs and into the forums. Let's see how it works out!)
This is important, and I believe we might be directly involved/affected/impacted sometime soon in the not-so-distant future. So hang tight and please continue reading... :)
So, in case none of you stay updated on Wikia's blogs @ Community Central (I try and stay updated because I run a ton of stuff here), they recently made an announcement about some new changes being made to COPPA - the U.S. federal law Wikia (as a U.S. based company) is under that requires them to limit use of their website to those at least 13 years of age.
What is the change? I didn't read into all of the details, but basically, there's a new addition to what websites/operators are not allowed to collect or share publicly: IP addresses. For those of you familiar with wikis, you'll know that that's exactly how Wikia, Wikipedia, and anything else that uses MediaWiki software identifies anonymous contributors.
Because of this change, Wikia is currently reviewing the way they handle communities that are (or possibly) directed to people 12 years of age or younger. They will be using a variety of criteria to look at wiki communities within this category (those they consider "high risk" to the new law change). If a wiki is considered high risk, Wikia will (in order to comply to federal law) be switching off anonymous editing and commenting for that wiki.
This wiki, I'm sure you'd all agree, is one such community with a topic and target audience directed primarily towards children, so there is a chance that we're going to be reviewed by Wikia at some point. My guess is that it'll be soon, but it seems like right now they're busy with reviewing larger communities (and are therefore at higher risk).
But, we don't need to panic over all of this. All it basically means is that contributors will need to have an account and login. Yes, it's contrary to the whole idea of a wiki being a website that "anyone can edit", but it's also important that laws are obeyed so we can actually have something to edit in the first place, right?
The law change will be going into effect July 1st, 2013, so I'm sure Wikia is currently going full-speed-ahead with this. I guess we'll have to wait and see...
In case it went over your head
Yes, this went over my head a little bit, too. But this comment, I believe, sums it all up:
If a website's "primary target audience is children", then the website operator may not collect identifying information from them.
IP addresses are regarded as identifying information.
Therefore, Wikia may not collect and share IP addresses from users of websites whose "primary target audience is children".
Since IP addresses are recorded as shared if you edit while logged out, wikis whose "primary target audience is children" trigger COPPA.
So, "Basically they disabled anon editing for all major wikias whose primary target audience is children." - as is necessary to comply with the law.
Here are some helpful links if you want know more:
I'll also be posting updates here if I (or Wikia staff, or other users, or any of you) find out more. I'll be attending Wikia's upcoming webinar on Friday that will cover this topic, and I'll be sure to take notes on that.
And if you'd like, share your thoughts/opinions/questions here. That is all - thanks, everyone! :)