Italian Version of Wikipedia Taken Down To Protest Proposed Law

Brad Chacos

Wikipedia. It’s so substantial and all-encompassing that it could kind of be considered a repository for the collective knowledge of our species. Since it’s all ones and zeros stored on servers around the world, there’s no threat of it burning down like the ancient Library at Alexandria did – at least not physically. Digital law can still bring it crashing down. The Italian version of Wikipedia is currently offline due to a law being proposed by the Italian Parliament that could have serious repercussions on Wikipedia – and all free speech – in that country.

A message that serves as a placeholder for the site warns that the content is only hidden at the moment, but it may deleted if paragraph 29 of the proposed “Wiretapping Act” is adopted into law. “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,” Wikipedia summarizes. Note that there is no third party arbiter or judge of whether the content is detrimental or not – the final legal say lands in the lap of the aggrieved, regardless of whether the originally reported story is true or not. Wikipedia takes extreme offense with that.

From the placeholder message: “The obligation to publish on our site the correction as is, provided by the named paragraph 29, without even the right to discuss and verify the claim, is an unacceptable restriction of the freedom and independence of Wikipedia, to the point of distorting the principles on which the Free Encyclopedia is based and this would bring to a paralysis of the "horizontal" method of access and editing, putting - in fact - an end to its existence as we have known until today.”

Critics of the proposed law say that it was designed solely to silence critics of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose lavish, lady-filled, and movie star-esque lifestyle is the subject of derision of many Italian publications.

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