Any very large group of people gathered on the Internet to work together toward some common purpose will resemble a polity, and, as such, the Digital Universe can benefit from this Charter, which defines the aims, processes, governance, and the rights of participants of the polity that will be the Digital Universe community. As the Digital Universe is a radically new and ambitious project, the general public has the right to expect the governing Boards of the Digital Universe to exercise the virtues of honesty, humility, creativity, and responsiveness to the many problems that will inevitably arise. This Charter is established to set the character and direction of the Digital Universe project, to help the project run more smoothly, and to encourage participation by those members of the public who support these goals and fundamental principles.
Article One. Statement of Principle and Aims of the Digital Universe.
Section I. Statement of Principle.
The Digital Universe is established for the benefit of all mankind, which means it is not established to profit some limited group of individuals, nor to promote some particular political ideology, nor to buttress any particular religion, nor to serve any particular nation. These aims shall be regarded as constraining for purposes of policy formulation and enforcement. The end to which the following aims are directed is the well-being of life on Earth and the health of the planet.
Section II. Aims.
The Digital Universe shall aim:
- to organize the world’s largest repository and directory of information;
- to develop new content collaboratively, and to guarantee the free availability of this new content, both for access and for further development, to all in perpetuity;
- to be of the highest possible quality, and to this end to be managed by scholars and scientists acting as stewards;
- to be exhaustive, continually-updated, and of broad interest to the public, and to this end to welcome public contribution and representation;
- to be fair and inclusive;
- to be well-organized, categorized, and easily searchable; and
- to be written and managed in many languages after an initial launch in English.
Article Two. Governance.
Section I. Board of Directors.
- The Board of Directors of the Digital Universe Foundation shall operate according to the Bylaws of the Digital Universe Foundation, which Bylaws shall supersede any rules contained in this Charter.
- The Board shall be empowered to make final decisions regarding the Digital Universe, but shall delegate dispute resolution, hiring, funding, and other issues to its adminstrators or to the appropriate boards and committees.
- The Board shall initially be established by the Founding Directors.
- Board members shall have three-year terms.
- The establishment of new project-wide initiatives, such as a directory or an encyclopedia, are to be approved by the Board.
Section II. Coalitions.
- Very broad areas of the taxonomy, numbering not more than a few dozen, shall be managed by Coalitions of organizations and individuals who are expert in those areas.
- Coalitions shall act autonomously with regard to their internal affairs and subject-specific issues, but shall also be constrained by the provisions of this Charter and by decisions of the Board of Stewards or the Judicial Board.
- All coalitions shall be neutral, that is, they shall be so constituted that, if they concern areas of partisan or sectarian dispute, they shall not be dominated by any particular concern, but representative of interests in the general population, or in the population of experts on the subject.
- New coalitions shall be established by the Board of Directors at the recommendation of the Board of Stewards.
Section III. Board of Stewards.
- The Board of Stewards shall be appointed by the Board of Directors.
- The Board of Stewards shall be comprised of one or more representatives from each of the Coalitions, plus such other members as may be appointed by the Board of Directors.
- The general function of the Board of Stewards is to establish policy for the Digital Universe as a whole, both as regards content and as regard procedures.
- Specific functions of the Board of Stewards shall include: the setting of project-wide editorial policy; approval of new project-wide processes; cultivation of new Coalitions; determination of grant distribution; and mediating disputes between Coalitions.
- The Board of Stewards shall be empowered to oversee software development and other necessary cross-Coalition efforts that shall provide uniform service to the entire Digital Universe.
- Committees of the Board of Stewards shall be established to recommend policy in a wide variety of areas, such as Technology or Recruitment, to be established by the Board of Stewards or by the Board of Directors. The decisions of committees shall be subject to approval by the entire Board of Stewards.
- Coalitions are to be responsible for their own special policy matters.
Section IV. Judicial Board.
- The Judicial Board shall be appointed by the Board of Directors.
- The general function of the Judicial Board is to decide particular disputes according to established policies.
- The Judicial Board shall have jurisdiction over disputes between individuals and between individuals and any Boards or Administrators. It shall not have jurisdiction in disputes among Coalitions.
- There shall initially be five Judicial Board members, including four regular members and a Chair. As the need arises, the Judicial Board may expand in membership at the discretion of the Board of Directors.
- The proceedings of the Judicial Board shall be made public, unless a participant in the proceedings requests otherwise; and then only at the discretion of the Board.
- Decisions made by the Judicial Board may be appealed to the Board of Directors, at the discretion of the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors may opt not to hear an appeal.
- The Judicial Board may invalidate policies determined by the Board of Stewards that are inconsistent with this Charter.
Section V. Administrators.
- The Digital Universe Foundation, including various governing boards of the project, shall appoint Administrators who will be tasked with certain well defined management aspects of the project; that is, a person acting in his or her capacity as an Administrator shall have carefully-circumscribed powers to carry out or enforce policy.
- Some Administrators, working at the pleasure of the Judicial Board, shall be responsible for the day-to-day enforcement of project policy among the general public. Members of the general public or Stewards may, having been approved by the Judicial Board, be elected or selected to serve in this capacity.
- Some Administrators, working at the pleasure of the Board of Directors, shall be responsible for organizing research and scholarly discussion of the issues surrounding the prosecution of the project.
- Other Administrators, such as the leaders of Cross-Coalition Projects, shall act on behalf of the Board that employs their services, and shall be answerable to that Board.
Section VI. Board of Advisors.
- A Board of Advisors shall be appointed by the Board of Directors.
- Terms of appointment shall be three years.
- The Board will convene yearly.
- The Board shall be empowered to issue public and private statements and recommendations.
- The Board members shall determine the procedures of the Board.
- The Board shall have a chairman, appointed by the Board of Directors.
Article Three. Policy on Fairness, Inclusion and Exclusion.
In the interests of encouraging the broadest participation, of assisting free peoples in making up their own minds about controversial issues, and of increasing the likelihood of articulating the whole truth about all subjects, the Digital Universe adopts the following policy regarding neutrality and fairness.
Section I. Fairness and Inclusion.
Content that is specifically approved by the Digital Universe shall, when touching upon any issue of controversy, be fair and insofar as possible neutral.
- When touching upon an issue of controversy, every different view on a subject that attracts a significant portion of adherents and which is reasonable and consistent with the Digital Universe statement of principle shall be represented, with each such view and its arguments or evidence being expressed as fairly and sympathetically as possible.
- Where there is a need to apportion limited space, space on areas of disagreement shall be apportioned roughly in proportion to their representation among experts or the persons involved in relevant disputes.
In view of the facts both that building a taxonomy inherently requires taking stands on controversial issues, and that there are few well-informed opinions about the task of taxonomy, there is no neutrality requirement with regard to building the taxonomy. The taxonomy shall be built according to the best-informed expert opinion.
Section II. Exclusion.
- As access to the broadest array of knowledge has many salutary effects, the Digital Universe shall be strongly disposed to include rather than exclude content.
- When some content both has no discernible and unique benefit to the advancement of knowledge, and has significant potential to harm the health or moral character of individuals, of human society at large, or of the environment, it may be excluded.
- To be grounds for exclusion, the harmful nature of some content must be affirmed, or likely to be affirmed, by the majority of the world’s educated population, regardless of political or religious views. The Digital Universe shall be both non-partisan and non-sectarian.
- Paradigm examples of excluded content are bomb-making instructions, pornography and Holocaust denial.
Article Four. Content Creation and Organization.
Section I. Stewarded and Public Processes.
- Duly appointed representatives of Coalitions, who possess some special qualification, shall be called Stewards, and Stewards shall in general have two functions: the creation of new content, and the approval of content originally created elsewhere. Stewards may be either individuals or organizations.
- Only content that has been approved by Stewards shall be represented as officially approved by the Digital Universe.
- Processes shall be established whereby members of the general public, who do not offer any special qualifications, may contribute.
- All contributors to the Digital Universe must contribute under their own real names.
- Free content that is created or imported to the project from outside of the Digital Universe shall be ensured to meet a minimum level of quality, as a condition of its development by the community.
- Those Stewards who wish to do so may oversee the day-to-day operations of contributions made by the general public. Rules and processes whereby this oversight takes place shall be established by or with the approval of the Board of Stewards.
- The Digital Universe shall conduct a copyediting project open to competent public participation, as well as other special projects that may serve the project as a whole.
Section II. Participation and Recruitment.
- As project participation must be maximized, every reasonable effort shall be made to recruit both expert contributors and the general public.
- Strategic use shall be made of various avenues of recruitment.
Section III. Taxonomy.
- Content organized by the Digital Universe shall be placed into a taxonomy of topics.
- The building of the taxonomy shall be managed by Stewards, with input from the general public, and approved by Coalitions, and with general oversight by the Board of Stewards.
Section IV. System Design.
- The processes whereby content is created and viewed shall be as easy to use as is consistent with the aims of the Digital Universe.
- The software that runs the Digital Universe shall be free to use and copy, its source code shall be open to view and to develop further, and the Digital Universe shall establish a software development project open to competent public participation.
- The system shall be designed so that there is a similar look and feel across different parts of the Digital Universe.
Article Five. A Bill of Rights.
This Charter is necessarily brief and leaves much up to the discretion of Coalitions and the various Boards. There are certain rights, however, which the Digital Universe shall respect, which include, but are not limited to, the following.
- Everyone who is able to contribute positively and competently according to the policy of the Digital Universe, and who has not be removed from the project, has a right to do so. No one should be prevented from participation on grounds of sex, race, color, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
- Participants have the right to participate without abuse, that is, without harrassment or interference contrary to project policy; moreover, participants may expect that abuse will be remedied in a timely fashion.
- In a free, publicly-owned project, no person or Coalition may be removed from the project without due process; moreover, penalties are to be justly proportional to the severity of the offense.
- A person who disagrees with the decision of an Administrator or of a lesser tribunal may appeal the decision to a higher tribunal.
- In the interests of maintaining an efficient and effective system, decisions made by Administrators and lesser tribunals that are under appeal may be carried out.
- Duly appointed Stewards shall have the right to participate in the project in their areas of expertise without consulting the general public, except as provided for in this Charter.