Access To Italian Wikipedia Blocked In Protest Of Wiretapping Bill In Italy [Updated]

from the who-needs-encyclopedias-anyway? dept

If you go to the Italian version of Wikipedia, you will not find a gateway to 847,000 articles in that language, but (at the time of writing, at least) an unusual letter to the reader:

the Italian language Wikipedia may be no longer able to continue providing the service that over the years was useful to you, and that you expected to have right now. As things stand, the page you want still exists and is only hidden, but the risk is that soon we will be forced to actually delete it.
This action has been taken by the Italian Wikipedia editors to draw attention to an Italian bill that is being discussed by the Italian Parliament at the moment:

Today, unfortunately, the very pillars on which Wikipedia has been built - neutrality, freedom, and verifiability of its contents - are likely to be heavily compromised by paragraph 29 of a law proposal, also known as "DDL intercettazioni" (Wiretapping Act).

This proposal, which the Italian Parliament is currently debating, provides, among other things, a requirement to all websites to publish, within 48 hours of the request and without any comment, a correction of any content that the applicant deems detrimental to his/her image.

Unfortunately, the law does not require an evaluation of the claim by an impartial third judge - the opinion of the person allegedly injured is all that is required, in order to impose such correction to any website.

Hence, anyone who feels offended by any content published on a blog, an online newspaper and, most likely, even on Wikipedia can directly request to publish a "corrected" version, aimed to contradict and disprove the allegedly harmful contents, regardless of the truthfulness of the information deemed as offensive, and its sources.
There's been some lively discussion on the Wikimedia mailing list about this move. Some, for example, thought that the Italian community had overstepped the mark by blacking-out the site in this way, but the main Wikimedia Foundation has now issued this message of support:

The Wikimedia Foundation stands with our volunteers in Italy who are challenging the recently drafted "DDL intercettazioni" (or Wiretapping Bill) bill in Italy. This bill would hinder the work of projects like Wikipedia: open, volunteer-driven, and collaborative spaces dedicated to sharing high-quality knowledge, not to mention the ability for all users of the internet to engage in democratic, free speech opportunities.

Wikipedians the world over pride themselves on their ability to rapidly remove false information from their project. Wikipedia has established methods to receive complaints or concerns from individuals or organizations and a strong system exists to remove incorrect or false information, and if necessary to remove complete articles in an effort to prevent vandalism. For Wikipedians, there is no value nor need for this proposed legislation.
The other issue raised on the mailing list discussion is to what extent the Italian law, if passed, would apply to Wikipedia, since it is not an Italian organization, and the servers are in the US and the Netherlands. Italian editors are nonetheless worried they would be on the receiving end of legal threats anyway, and would rather not find out the hard way whether their work on the Italian Wikipedia were subject to the new legislation.

Then there's also the little matter of the Italian Constitution, part of which says:
Article 21 [Freedom of Communication]

(1) Everyone has the right to freely express thoughts in speech, writing, and by other communication. (2) The press may not be controlled by authorization or submitted to censorship.
All-in-all, the Italian politicians behind this proposed legislation emerge with little honor; at the very least, the new law will cast a chill over freedom of expression online in Italy, and at worst could see the Italian Wikipedia shut down permanently a huge loss for its users and Italian culture.

Update: Via Carl Levinson, Roberta Ranzani and Jillian C. York on Google+, we've learned that the controversial paragraph 29 of the Wiretapping bill has been dropped (details in Italian). It's not clear exactly why, but the action by the Italian Wikipedia must surely have concentrated people's minds. However, it's important to note that the rest of the bill is still going forward - and has plenty of other changes that will harm freedom of speech in Italy if enacted.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2011 @ 10:35am

    From the land of the Romans and Fascists.

    what else should be expected.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2011 @ 10:47am

    Makes sense to me...

    Berlusconi owns large swaths of Italian media, internet publishing threatens that, so he encourages laws to ban publishing on the internet. Makes perfect sense.

    You know what they say - gatekeepers gonna gate.

     

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    icon
    Ima Fish (profile), Oct 5th, 2011 @ 10:47am

    "Italian editors are nonetheless worried they would be on the receiving end of legal threats anyway"

    Oh come on, it's not like Italy would bring criminal charges against Google employees for user-posted videos, convict a girl for murder merely because she's a pretty American, and charge scientists with crimes for their failure to predict an earthquake.

    Come on everyone, it's quite clear that the great legal minds, highly ethical police, and highly fair minded politicians in Italy would never charge anyone working for Wikipedia with a crime.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2011 @ 10:58am

    master gaters gonna gate.

     

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  •  
    icon
    Nay (profile), Oct 5th, 2011 @ 11:19am

    Nay.

    That's my One World One Human Vote and I'm sticking to it.

     

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  •  
    icon
    Robert Doyle (profile), Oct 5th, 2011 @ 11:25am

    So if the Italian government publishes something on its website... I can tell them I don't like it and they have to change it? COOL!!!!! I hope they publish the LAW and then I can force a re-write!!!!! SWEET!!!!

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2011 @ 11:40am

    It's not necessary to remove the Italian Wikipedia - only to remove all references to people within it.

     

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    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Oct 5th, 2011 @ 11:53am

    Law

    > The other issue raised on the mailing list
    > discussion is to what extent the Italian law,
    > if passed, would apply to Wikipedia, since
    > it is not an Italian organization, and the
    > servers are in the US and the Neterhlands.

    Not much of a question actually. The answer is, the Italian law won't apply at all.

    If I put up a web site in California, I'm not in any way obliged to follow some draconian Italian law purportedly requiring me to let people 'correct' what I write and then muzzles me from even commenting on it. That would be a direct violation of the 1st Amendment, which as a US citizen, in the US, utilizing computers in the US, trumps any law passed by the government of Italy.

    The fact that I'm talking about Italians or Italian issues is utterly irrelevant.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2011 @ 12:55pm

      Re: Law

      I think the issue is that those 847,000 articles ARE on a server in Italy. Not sure why they don't just 'backup' those files to another country, and then label them Italian. They could then shut down the servers in Italy. The content would still be editable, unless the Italian government puts up the Great Pizza Wall of Italy, and blocks all sites with wiki in their name.

       

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        icon
        btr1701 (profile), Oct 5th, 2011 @ 3:13pm

        Re: Re: Law

        > I think the issue is that those 847,000 articles
        > ARE on a server in Italy.

        No, it clearly said that the broader Wikipedia group is concerned how this law would apply outside of Italy, and specifically referenced servers in the US and Netherlands.

        For those sites hosted on those servers outside of Italy, the Italian law wouldn't apply at all. It's really not even much of a question.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2011 @ 12:30pm

    Did Mike sell Techdirt to you?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2011 @ 12:40pm

    You know how you stop this from happening? Everyone in Italy should complain about all the gov't websites. The wording of the proposed law seems to indicate that there is zero burden of proof imposed upon the complaintant, no way to defend against a complaint and no recourse for false accusations. First target, the taxing authority's main page.

     

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      icon
      Rikuo (profile), Oct 5th, 2011 @ 2:42pm

      Re:

      Why does the zero burden of proof sound so familiar? Oh yeah, the three strikes laws. Seems in the past few years, the concept of evidence and proof has basically been removed from the law books.

       

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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Oct 5th, 2011 @ 12:43pm

    While we are at it, we could remove the Italy entry from the regular Wikipedia.

     

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    Some Other Guy (profile), Oct 5th, 2011 @ 12:51pm

    Typo report.

    Neterhlands -> Netherlands

     

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    Glyn Moody (profile), Oct 5th, 2011 @ 2:59pm

    Update added

    It looks like the problematic Paragraph 29 has been pulled - see update at end for details.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2011 @ 3:15pm

    "we've learned that the controversial paragraph 29 of the Wiretapping bill has been dropped ... However, it's important to note that the rest of the bill is still going forward - and has plenty of other changes that will harm freedom of speech in Italy if enacted. "

    Two steps forward, one step back. Two steps forward, one step back. It's much easier to pass the rest of the bill if you include an absurd clause and drop it at the last minute after everyone protests. That one clause distracts everyone from the rest of the bill during most of the protest duration. Then governments can use the middle ground fallacy and say, "see, we're being compromising, why doesn't the public compromise a bit too?"

     

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  •  
    identicon
    zadoc, Oct 5th, 2011 @ 11:34pm

    The Italian legislature is crazy for trying to impliment restrictions on freedom of speech on the Internet.

    POLL: Do you support Wikipedia's strike in Italy?
    Vote: http://www.wepolls.com/p/3522172

     

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