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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Filed Under: censorship, free speech, italy, wikipedia
Companies: wikipedia

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  1. icon
    btr1701 (profile), 5 Oct 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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