Faced with a proposed Italian law that would levy fines against bloggers singled out by aggrieved subjects without due process, the Italian page of Wikipedia shut down its site in protest.
According to the message on their front page, if this law passed, Wikipedia would permanently shut down the site in protest.
The proposed Wiretapping Act, pushed by the Berlusconi government, would require bloggers and websites to revise content within 48 hours if the subject alleges that it is biased or harmful. If they refuse to comply, they face a fine of up to $16,000.
In a message on the site, the Italian editors of Wikipedia called this act “an unacceptable restriction of [our users’] freedom and independence.” Pointing out that Italy already has strong anti-defamation laws in place, Wikipedia protested that the community, which also already has strict self-policing in their content, would be unable to determine the veracity of any allegations — or even discuss them.
The Wikimedia project in North America fully supported their counterpart’s actions.
“Wikipedians the world over pride themselves on their ability to rapidly remove false information from their project,” wrote Jay Walsh, Wikimedia’s head of communications, on the foundation’s site. “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.”
As protesters gathered outside the Italian parliament yesterday — mouths taped shut to protest the “gag law” — Berlusconi held firm to his position.
The prime minister, who faces charges of corruption and of having sex with an underage prostitute, has been embarrassed by Wikipedia in the past: The website published embarrassing phone transcripts of Berlusconi in July, in which he was recorded bragging about his sexual habits and insulting German Prime Minister Angela Merkel.