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Regarding recent events on Italian Wikipedia

Today the volunteers of the Italian Wikipedia community made the decision to replace all of Italian Wikipedia with a message to readers about a law (PDF in Italian) being discussed before the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian parliament. The message outlines the viewpoints of the Italian Wikipedia community, and provides details about the proposed bill, and how it threatens the ability to openly collaborate in the sharing of knowledge. This is certainly a decision the Italian Wikipedia community did not take lightly.

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 Wikimedia Foundation supports the rights of all people to access our free knowledge content everywhere in the world, and we equally support the work of our editors to collaborate in the production of this free knowledge without the spectre of sanctioned punishment or attacks towards their work.

Jay Walsh, Communications

163 Responses to “Regarding recent events on Italian Wikipedia”

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  1. Full support to Jay Walsh’s statement.
    I believe that this decision by the Italian Wikipedia community was 100% right. This is elementary self-defence against a bill that would make life impossible for the Project, limiting its possibilities of survival to our subduing to political and legal pressures.
    All Wikipedia officers and active community members have the duty to take the most effective measures to protect the existence and integrity of Wikipedia. The effect this strike action is having in Italy is huge and this proves that the decision was absolutely correct.

    An Italian Wikipedia contributor

  2. Andrea Idini says:

    @Josh: Simple, let’s suppose that I will be sued and condemned for a crime. “Andrea has been condemned for this crime” This is a true verifiable undeniable statement, nothing malicious, just a verified proposition (as Chomsky would put it).
    With the old Law I can sue someone if they publish something personal or untrue or malicious, but not for the plain truth.
    With the new law I can sue and have the phrase removed, just because I personally don’t won’t that anyone should write anything about me on the web (wikipedia included).

    Not only that: I should claim that the previous, that I PERSONALLY find unpleasant (but can be undeniable true) proposition will not only be removed but also substitued with something of my choice with the same visibility. So not only I can remove “Andrea has been condamned for this crime” (even if is a true verifiable statement) but also I can force to write “Andrea is a very kind man that has been unjustly condemned by this unfair law for this uncommitted crime”.

    This is against the same concept of wikipedia and even against the concept of objectivity and the existence of a truth itself!

  3. @Martinez:

    The text published on the Italian Wikipedia is neutral. It is not againsts some particular party or faction. And it is non a proper protest.

    It is an objective text explaining that law and how that law will shut down any neutral and editable website in Italy.

    The law imposes to any website to remove any text considered difamatory by the offended subject, without the intervention or the opinion of a judge and _the publishing of a new text, written by the injuried subject_.

    This is against the neutrality of Wikipedia. If I’m allergic to milk, and I feel offended by the page about the milk, I can make Wikipedia publish “The milk is EVIL”, in a non-editable way, instead of the old page.

  4. Thogo says:

    The Italian Wikipedia community has the right to defend their own work against a law that could prevent them from furtherly contribute to Wikimedia projects. They just want to defend the Italian Wikipedia and its basic principle of neutrality and that’s nothing scandalous or ridiculous.

    Btw., I actually wonder what happens if after such a law-enforced change on a website another person comes and says “but I want that other content back there because I don’t like this one”? Law-enforced edit war?

  5. Alessio says:

    Pietro, I am italian too. But Wikipedia has to do with information and culture, not with politics. It has to remain free, neutral and AVAILABLE. The editors cannot use the site to express a political point of view, there are other means to do that. I agree they should resign and restore the site as soon as possible.

  6. Tommaso Caparrotti says:

    It’s simply the some stupid italian way to make bills. They don’t understand the net and cause of this are only able to care about their problems with law for bitches or for their shady busines.

  7. Tommaso Caparrotti says:

    Questa volta stiamo facendo veramente una figurina di vacca con il resto del mondo segnalandoci come i piu’ sciocchi ed i piu’ reazionari. Vogliamo rilanciare il paese continuando con queste bravate bigotte e retrograde? Altro che intercettazioni ed escort, qui non ci sono fantasmi nell’armadio, ma c’e solo inettitudine di una casta politica di infimo livello!

  8. Massimo Pascucci says:

    I’m from Italy too, and I agree with Pietro; I’ll not digress into why exactly this bill is being passed (whoever wants more informations on this is free to check our major politicians’ judicial backgrounds); but its effects would be terrible not only on Wikipedia, but on the Internet as a whole, not to mention other, more “traditional” media.
    The bill states that if a person, any person, thinks something published by any media is lesive of his/her dignity, he/she can ask the publisher to remove it and replace it with a statement *from the offended person*, and this will be enfoced by law and will happen automatically at the person’s request, even before any judge or court can check if the person actually has any valid reason to do that. Everyone could force Wikipedia, or any other web site, into removing or modifying any article by simply writing an email saying “I don’t agree with this page and you should rectify it as I want”, even if the page was perfectly neutral and only contained well-documented facts.
    This is just plain crazy, and if this bill passes, it will create a STRONG censorship in Italy, only to make sure politicians can’t get criticized by anyone, online or offline. I, as an Italian, really thank Wikipedia and the Foundation for helping us against this. This is not involvement into a sovereign country’s political affairs… this is helping us against blatant censorship. And, besides, Wikipedia would really not be able to operate anymore under these conditions.

  9. Klokko says:

    I think the hiding action of Italian Wikipedia should be undone and the man that decided that \italian Wikipedia should be hidden be blocked for vandalism. I know, this law is ridiculous, but people shold be able to read Wikipedia Normally. Thye should only put that message on Main Page

  10. Matthias says:

    It might suit better, Pietro, to explain it using an example. For using an quite extreme example, but still it shows the problem: if one of the most well-known Italian actrices won’t like anymore, that “her” article says she was born in Rome an 20 September 1934, but Sophia Loren would much more like to be born an 16 July 1936 in Rimini this law enables her to write a notice to any sysop on the Italian Wikipedia and demand to remove the former and inset the latter wether it is true or not. If the sysop won’t comply he would do a criminal offense and could get fined with 12,000 € – no matter if that sysop ever before was involved in the article. If he does like wished it must be ensured that never again the wrong date and place got removed from the article, even if we have a 100 sources saying that it is wrong and even if we have a copy of the birth certificate proving it wrong. And worse, the sysop even must hit every single version of the article’s history in which the 20 September 1934 date was mentioned. I presume that was in the Italian Wikipedia on Sophie Loren not different from the article in the German language version and was one of the earlies edits in this article. That, basically would break the license, because of we would loose to look up who ammended and changed what.

    Well, I don’t think Miss Loren would do something but I can imagine a lot of people doing this, politicians for example would have a big interest to write their own biography. We won’t be able to do anything against in this way manipulated content in biographies of living people.

    Well, some might say, so what, it’s the Italian Wikipedia only but I am not sure about that. As I understood the law it could be, that it is applicable to any sysop living anywhere within the Eureopean Union what means that at least some 23 language versions are at risk (I didn’t count the regional languages) including English Wikipedia and German Wikipedia. It seems to be an Italian thing but it is a matter of us all.

    Matthia (as Matthiasb in DE:WP)

  11. Pi zero says:

    One of the remaining (after the fork) active members of English Wikinews has resigned on the grounds the foundation has forsaken its own principle of neutrality in supporting political activism by a sister project. His statement is at https://en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=User%3ADendodge&action=historysubmit&diff=1295186&oldid=1288957

  12. grin says:

    It is not the opinion of the itwp editors, and it is not the political agenda of anyone. They do not protest killing polar bears or economical sorcery.

    It is about _Wikipedia_, and I guess it has been really clearly written why and how. You do not seem to comprehend that while the current “blanking” appears temporary the bill may cause italian wikipedia to be ceased, and blank forever. Italian editors would be forbidden to edit it or face fines or imprisonment due not complying their national law. It doesn’t help that the servers are in the US since you have to comply with your nation’s laws as a person.

    Yes it is extremely easy to call them stupid from outside. Unless, of course, your government thinks it’s a pretty useful way to silence the opposition and follow their way. But then you’ll have no way to speak up anymore.

    My 2 ‘cents.

  13. Tim Oey says:

    Thank you Pietro Baroni for a sensible and reasonable statement. The law in question could destroy not only wikipedia in Italy, but any site and all news media where anyone says anything that anyone else disagrees with. The proposed Italian law attempts to fix a problem with a cure far worse than the disease. Just imagine the chaos that would likely ensue — websites could be thrashed back and forth at the whim of individuals with no moderating influence. Taken from another view point, the Italian law, if passed, would likely make Italy a laughingstock of the modern internet world.

  14. Vo Viet Anh says:

    Is it just me or the Italian Wikipedia community is overimplicating? Since I think that this law doesn’t mean and absolutely can’t enforce zero-defaming in Italian language and any kind of Italian media. If otherwise it does, Wikipedia with the threatened integrity of mostly articles on “People” wouldn’t be the biggest victim. Other communities would be more likely to spearhead a campaign to retract the law, so there’s no need for Wikipedia to fret. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  15. Pietro Baroni says:

    I am from Italy, and I can explain exactly what this Bill is all about.
    Let’s say somebody writes something I don’t like on a website, any website. Well, in that case, if this bill is approved, I can make the admins of that website remove that statement within 48 hours. Law would impose that to them; and not only they would need to remove that thing, but they would have to replace it with whatever the “offended” person suggest, giving it the same visibility, graphics and importance as the old statement. All this in 48 hours, by law.
    So I think italian Wikipedia is simply saying “If things will go that way, the basic purpose of wikipedia could not be achieved: wikipedia would not be free anymore, so we are just giving it up, hoping that things will not turn that way. Especially because wikipedia has its own system for solving these problems, and it’s working really good.”
    So I don’t think they’re using Wikipedia for a political purpose, but just to say that if the bill gets approved, wikipedia would not be useful anymore, so it would have to die.

  16. Josh says:

    Why is it so scandalous for people to be able to defend themselves against views they do not agree with?

  17. Adrignola says:

    Standing by readers is one thing. Standing by while a site is manipulated to act as a political platform and its primary purpose subverted is another. A site notice or a targeted central notice would have been more than adequate to convey the message supported by the community. However, this is too much. It seems that, with the consensus of those who edit and are aware of the inner workings of the Wikipedia community, you can make any statement you like on a Wikimedia wiki with no consequences. But the readers are the ones who suffer.

    Do the ends justify the means? The Wikimedia Foundation standing idly by would indicate that this is their view.

  18. Not to mention that Virgilio A. P. Machado Says: “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”
    October 4th, 2011 at 19:49

    Thank you for giving me one more chance “to engage in democratic, free speech opportunities.”

    Sincerely,

    Virgilio A. P. Machado (User:Vapmachado)

  19. This is a very interesting vision, mission, strategy, pillar, policy, guideline of the WMF: involvement in political activism in a EU member state. More appalling, however, is the blatant propaganda loaded with exaggerated and plain false statements. “The ability for all users of the Internet to engage in democratic, free speech opportunities.” does not stand when there are thousands of banned, blocked, locked and monitored Internet users (this user included) and the Italians are no exception. “Wikipedia is not a democracy” and neither is the WMF a private charity. As for free speech opportunities, they have been clearly explained: “Your only legal rights on Wikipedia are your right to fork and your right to leave.”

    “Wikipedians the world over pride themselves on their ability to” use of slander, calumny, or malicious gossip to publicly denigrate a person’s character or ability, due to the difficulty to sue in libel. You’ll find a small sample on this page: http://human-rights-in-cyberspace.wikia.com/wiki/Honor_and_reputation_attacks You’ll find the two more recent such statements on this section: http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Steward_requests/Global#Global_unlock_for_Vapmachado There is NO method and sometimes not even a open line of communication to file complains or concerns and there is NO system to remove incorrect or false information (that’s why all those honor and reputation attacks are still in plain public view) and that is also true with respect to user pages and Wikipedia articles ( http://human-rights-in-cyberspace.wikia.com/wiki/Portuguese_Wikipedia_governance_issues and http://human-rights-in-cyberspace.wikia.com/wiki/Talk:Portuguese_Wikipedia_governance_issues ).

    As Head of Communications of the WMF you have no mandate from Wikipedians to make public statements on their behalf ( http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Communications_committee – page outdated, no less) You have clearly exceeded your job description and in any trustworthy organization you would be asked to submit your resignation first thing in the morning. A prompt investigation would also lead to major changes and membership in the Communications Committee.

    You’re only right in your closing statement. Your editors can do without “the specter of sanctioned punishment or attacks towards their work.” because they already do a pretty good job at that. That’s the community you so gladly support with the donations you collect as a charity from people all over the world, even people poor then you.

    Virgilio A. P. Machado (User:Vapmachado)

  20. Martinez says:

    It’s utterly ridiculous what the “italian editors” are doing.
    Wikimedia has to be neutral and wikipedia cannot be used to protests.

    The volunteers in Italy (or vandals – to be more exact) decides nobody can access and read articles because wikipedia has to be free… Free?

    And the content? I was doing a translation of a article to portuguese and… now i can’t because some users decide to “protest”. Create a blog, protest in twitter, facebook whatever, but not abuse of wikipedia to try to impose a point of view. Obviously not neutral.

    Disgussing (and very brainless).

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