French Intelligence Agency Forces Wikipedia Volunteer to Delete Article; Re-Instated, It Becomes Most-Read Page On French Wikipedia

from the not-so-clever dept

Last week, we wrote about an organization that was unhappy that a Wikipedia article no longer existed. Now we have the opposite problem: an organization unhappy because a Wikipedia article does exist. And not just any organization, but the "Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intéieur" (Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence, DCRI), a French intelligence agency, which suddenly decided that an article about a military base contained classified information, and wanted it deleted. As the English-language Wikipedia article on the subject explains:

The Wikimedia Foundation asked the intelligence agency what precise part(s) of the article were a problem in the eyes of the intelligence agency, noting that the article closely reflected information in a freely available television broadcast. The DCRI refused to give these details, and repeated its demand for deletion of the article.
Wikipedia refused to delete it, and then things took a nasty turn, as a press release from the Wikimedia Foundation explains:
Unhappy with the Foundation's answer, the DCRI summoned a Wikipedia volunteer in their offices on April 4th. This volunteer, which was one of those having access to the tools that allow the deletion of pages, was forced to delete the article while in the DCRI offices, on the understanding that he would have been held in custody and prosecuted if he did not comply. Under pressure, he had no other choice than to delete the article, despite explaining to the DCRI this is not how Wikipedia works.
As the Wikimedia Foundation goes on to note:
This volunteer had no link with that article, having never edited it and not even knowing of its existence before entering the DCRI offices. He was chosen and summoned because he was easily identifiable, given his regular promotional actions of Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects in France.
This is very similar to the situation discussed last week, where Benjamin Mako Hill seems to have been targeted because he, too, was easily identifiable. As we noted then, putting pressure on Wikipedia volunteers in this way is extremely problematic, since it naturally discourages others from helping out. As Wikimedia wrote in its press release:
Wikimedia France cannot understand how bullying and coercitive methods can be used against a person dedicated to promote the freedom and knowledge. As Wikimedia France supports free knowledge, it is its duty to denounce such acts of censorship against a French citizen and Wikipedia editor.

Has editing Wikipedia officially become risky behaviour in France? Is the DCRI unable to enforce military secrecy through legal, less brutal methods
There is also the interesting question of how a national intelligence service only found out about the article now, several years after it was first added: this hardly suggests a firm grasp of what's happening in the online world. That's confirmed by the fact that the deleted article is, of course, back on line, in French and a dozen other languages. Moreover, the DCRI's ham-fisted attempt to censor an extremely obscure Wikipedia page that hardly anyone ever visited, has achieved exactly the opposite effect: in the last few days, the page has been viewed over 45,000 times. This is how the article about the not-so-secret military installation now concludes:
As a result of the controversy, the article became the most-read page on the French Wikipedia. It was translated into multiple other languages. The French newspaper 20 minutes noted it as an example of the Streisand effect in action.
Will they never learn?

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 4:07am

    Fail of military proportions! That's one huge win for Wikipedia if you think about it and make it akin to the intertubes.

    I explain: the internet was conceived back on arpa or whatever it was called precisely to prevent an attack to part of the network succeeding in disabling the entirety of it. Wikipedia has a network of collaborators that CAN delete and do high level access stuff anywhere but not without others noticing weird behavior and reviewing it meaning you can't just take things down at will. This resilience has been put to test multiple times and while not perfect (the internet has its exploitable parts doesn't it?) it does a heck of a good job. However it may highlight a need for further changes to increase this resilience as next time the morons may go after people that created/edit regularly (still I think they'd always double, triple, quadruple check deletions especially if the article is not new).

    If anything Wikipedia got a hugely epic win, Streisand got proud and the French CIA ended looking like fail-clowns.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 5:54am

    France = Fail

    Brought to you by the makers of the Guillotine and Hadopi.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 5:55am

    French Intelligence Agency shows amazing lack of intelligence and draws more attention to what they wanted to hide.
    Ms. Streisand will be performing at the benefit concert to raise money to help them overcome the shame of butthurt.

    We talk about the **AA's and their ilk being stuck in history and not adapting, it should be a national shame when your intelligence agency fails this spectacularly. I worry for the person they already leaned on once, those with power often lash out at others for their own failed actions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 6:01am

    Next: DCRI tries to censor the Streisand Effect.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Jikap (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 6:03am

    Hmm

    Maybe they did learn their lesson, and was aiming for the 15 min of Internet fame through the Streisand effect to begin with?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 6:13am

    Re:

    technically anybody can functionally delete an article on wikipedia (by blanking the page)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 6:35am

    It may be the most-read page of the French Wikipedia, but how many of those people being linked from articles could actually read French?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Lowestofthekeys (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 6:45am

    Re: Re:

    If it doesn't function as easily as waving a white flag, then the french military won't even try to use it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Zeissmann (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 6:47am

    Inferior

    Sorry for the lame joke, but I really did at first read their name as “Central Directorate of Inferior Intelligence”. Probably that's how they should be called anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 6:52am

    Automating the process

    The French could create software to automate the process of deleting Wikipedia articles, and stop all worldwide internet piracy all in one step!

    They could call it the Maginot Defender Software. Designed to protect the intarwebs from bad things.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    BentFranklin (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 6:55am

    I hope he changed his password as soon as he left the building. Even then it might have been too late.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 6:56am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Solution: "Flag this article for deletion" button.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Zeissmann (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 6:56am

    Re: France = Fail

    Come on, give them some credit. The Guillotine was pretty effective. Probably because it was invented in the XVIII century. Apparently that's the level of technology those guys are comfortable with.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 6:57am

    I really love this. Whenever they do this kind of bullcrap, they need to be put on display on the public square with their pants down. If only the big media would actually see it as news, I do think the public backlash would be quite a beast to behold.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:00am

    Re: Automating the process

    It's not a piece of software, it's actually a hardware composed of a switch that switches off the internet. Yeah, that would work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:02am

    Re: Re:

    That's not the same as the administrative ability to 'delete' a page, moving all it's revisions to a different database table only accessible/revertible by other privileged people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Spodula, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:04am

    Re: BentFranklin

    According to the Talk page on the english version, the person involved (And three others) have asked to be de-sysoped until this mess is sorted out. Apparently they have now been.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:07am

    Re: France = Fail

    France has been very out of touch for several decades. Their protectionism of information and IP is already a sign for other politicians in europe of how not to do things.

    In recent years the french government and courts have harrassed Google on several occasions like a ruling making Google maps "illegal competition" trying to screw french mapmakers and people caught on its pictures, the government has sued them for tax evasion, the "suggest"-feature has been deemed libelous by french courts in several instances and the newspaper settlement where they set up a fund of 60 million euros to fund Digital Publishing Innovation.

    These are cases from within the last 3 years with more or less government involvement only targeting Google...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:08am

    Re: Re: France = Fail

    Actually, I'm not even sure they were the first to invent it. I think the British made something similar first, might have been called the Halifax gibbet.

    Too bad they didn't copyright it, then heads would really roll...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:09am

    Re: Automating the process

    Sadly it was built facing the past trying to stop the old ways of doing things.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:11am

    Re:

    If they force the deletion of the Streisand Effect article, the effect will cease functioning and suddenly people won't talk about things that are getting censored. Makes sense to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:14am

    Re:

    "As a result of the controversy, the article became the most-read page on the French Wikipedia. It was translated into multiple other languages."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Roman, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:18am

    France

    France just needs to surrender to Wikipedia already. Just get it over with already. Once they preemptively surrender to North Korea that is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Roman, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:21am

    Re:

    That would be the most-meta censorship since Google was sent DMCA requests for their published DMCA requests.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    someone (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:23am

    Re:

    "Next: DCRI tries to censor the Streisand Effect."

    In other news, Barbra Streisand is reported missing during her recent trip to France.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Jeff, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:25am

    French "secrets"

    I'd this wonderful Italian flatmate when I lived in Paris. After I left, a French defense contractor hired him for logistics. His position required a French security clearance, probably only low level, but a security clearance nonetheless.

    Turns out, his boss had never liked him, she would've preferred hiring some Chinese lady, but the French government initially said the clearance sounded too tricky. After 1 year or so, she finagled a security clearance for said Chinese lady, fired my friend, and hired the her.

    I question your "security" if you're permitting low level bureaucrats to finagle security clearances and jobs in secure areas for Chinese nationals.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:26am

    Re: Re:

    > technically anybody can functionally delete an article on wikipedia (by blanking the page)

    That shows up as a huge red flag on the Recent Changes feed. Not only that, but several bots monitor the Recent Changes feed, and will automatically undo any attempted blanking. Followed by an automated warning on the offender's talk page, which causes an orange alert to appear at the top of any Wikipedia page the offender accesses.

    If the vandal persists on the blanking attempt, they will be reverted again (this time manually), and blocked for a day or more if they insist.

    So no, blanking the page does not work as a way to delete a Wikipedia article.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Palmyra (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:26am

    The Future

    Ti the future US, "Let the Germans keep them." We have paid our debt to Lafayette.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    Palmyra (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:28am

    Re: The Future

    Why can't one edit his post? To not Ti

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:34am

    Re: Re:

    Oh, I know, but for some reason the English-language articles I've seen about this like to link to the French version even if their readership can't read it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    ralph, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:38am

    French intelligence agency? They don't sound particularly intelligent.

    I also read in the news today that Russia does not intend to see filesharers in court.

    I think the government can legislate and legally threaten for so long, and then it seems to stop working.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 7:41am

    Re:

    Je ne sais pas.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 8:05am

    Damn it took them long enough rofl! Here in the good old US of A someone would have been arrested, sent to Guantanamo Bay, waterboarded, sodomized....."in the ass", released, rearrested, and... well, you get the picture.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 8:17am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's always proper to link the original source material.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 8:20am

    Re: French "secrets"

    Nice racism there. Disgraceful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 8:35am

    Re:

    French Intelligence Agency shows amazing lack of intelligence

    French Intelligence : oxymoron

    (As opposed to the Dihydrogen oxymorons that live in Florida.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Jim, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 8:49am

    Streisand effect en Francais?

    What is the French equivalent of the Streisand effect? Or is this it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 9:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ever noticed the sidebar with links to all other languageversions the article exists in on every wikipediapage?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    pixelpusher220 (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 9:17am

    Re: Re:

    Maybe the DCRI will fly her to France and make her delete 'her' effect?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Linking to the original helps consolidate all views into the same page counter. Currently over 121,000 page views, and counting...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    retardedunderground, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 9:37am

    Ooh anonymous VPN traffic business just spiked. Hide our IPs so the invisible illumanti don't kill us1!!!1

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 10:24am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Thanks for the heads up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    kitsune361, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 10:41am

    Srsly the wrong way to go about it.

    If you have a Wikipedia admin account under your control, this is totally the wrong way to go about destroying an article. What you do is have *other* people edit the articles you want to change and then wield your admin power to quash descent with the power of the banhammer.

    The DCRI could learn a lot from MI6 or some of the private Wikipedia "editing projects" (conspiracies?) that have come to light over the years.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    icon
    sehlat (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 10:46am

    France Gets a New Battle Cry

    From this day forth, instead of "They shall not pass!", they will shout "They shall not read!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 10:57am

    Re: Re: French "secrets"

    He totally has a point that you missed because of your knee-jerk reaction: you shouldn't be hiring foreign nationals for your national security jobs, ever. That's like National Security 101.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 10:59am

    Re:

    When you're getting arrested to deface articles on the merit that you have an admin account on Wikipedia, then where does it go from being "invisible" to "Oh shit someone is actually out to get me"?

    But okay, tell DCRI that you have an admin account on Wikipedia, I'm sure they'll treat you with bunnies and sunshine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Sunhawk, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 11:02am

    A Suggestion for Wikipedia

    Just as wikipedia has an article of the day, they should have a "censorship attempt of the day".

    Just to rub it in.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    icon
    sehlat (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 12:20pm

    Re:

    Personne ne le sait.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    icon
    Jeff (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Streisand effect en Francais?

    L'effet Streisand?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Frank Black, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 1:20pm

    They were probably just trying to remove the plans for immediate surrender for that base.

    Or maybe where the white flag storage locker was?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 1:27pm

    i think the thing to remember about this is, as has happened so many times in the last couple of years, democratic countries are doing the same as places like Iran and N.Korea. they are stifling free speech and censoring the very things that democracy is supposed to represent and stand for. the USA has been doing it, the UK has been doing it, Sweden has been doing it as has Holland. these countries have been doing these things, in the main, because of threats from the USA, for doing too little to curb 'piracy and file sharing'. as with many other things, once it starts, it is very difficult to stop because it gets worse every time it happens. eventually, it comes about that these 'democratic countries' are a damn site worse than the countries that have been despised and condemned, falling into their states of dictatorship.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    icon
    Almost Anonymous (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Hmm

    Yep, this was my thinking as well. There must be some bit of misinformation in there that they really, really want everyone to read and believe.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    icon
    Zeissmann (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 3:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: France = Fail

    Yes, but the French improved it by introducing the triangular blade. Legend has it that the man who proposed this solution was also guillotined during the French Revolution. A prime example of an unpatented invention killing the inventor.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    identicon
    Jim, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 6:29pm

    Re: Re: Hmm

    Thank you for pointing this out. It galls me how easily people are manipulated - one must ALWAYS ask "what could possibly really be going on?".

    Questions to ask:
    Is the story likely? Who has a stake in the events? What other events could be related? Are we sure the story is accurate? Are we sure the supposed instigator is the REAL instigator? Etc, etc.

    It's hard to know for sure what's really going on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 9:56pm

    Saved and encrypted

    I save the French and English language copies plus a google translated copy and threw it in a truecrypt volume.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 10:58pm

    The word Streisand Effect appears 13 times on this page. (now 14)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    Androgynous Cowherd, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 11:21pm

    Since when...

    ...can a government agency of a Western democracy, in peacetime:

    a) Summon, essentially, a random civilian off the street into their head office, with no warrant or basis for suspicion of that civilian in any criminal matter;

    b) Detain that civilian without same; and

    c) Demand that that civilian take an arbitrary action or face prosecution (and for what charge?)

    Absent martial law, that clearly should not happen. What the article describes is a violation not only of due process, but of rule of law as well -- an agency of the executive branch of government directly commanding random civilians and threatening them with prosecution, where said civilians have presumptively not violated any pre-existing legislation, and without any court order.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
    identicon
    mr Tin tin, Apr 9th, 2013 @ 1:38am

    ....

    You people are fed with stupid things like Wikipedia and bullshit news... while the politicians are raping your countries and destroying innocent lives.


    And now their focusing North Korea while EU is destroying the economy...

    You people will allways be sheep..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
    identicon
    Peter, Apr 9th, 2013 @ 7:26am

    Louisiana bureaucrat tries same BS

    A bureaucrat on some board in Louisiana that exists to protect certain racketeering efforts of big-money pharmeceutical lobbyists has been harassing my mother, a small-time healthcare provider, pressuring her to ignore medical science and violate the Hippocratic oath so as to silence her blogging and if necessary close her practice.

    Why?

    Her studying of clinical trials shed light on a discovery that threatened the status quo of a product of big pharma in the United States, and she had the audacity to objectively report on the discovery.

    The bureaucrat's name is Cecilia Mouton, and I will be publishing more about this story in the weeks to come at a yet-to-be determined website, blog or press release distribution firm.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This