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Edward Snowden a "hero"; German Wikipedia court ruling

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By Go Phightins!, Mark Miller

Jimmy: Edward Snowden a "hero"

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales caught headlines last week when he referred to former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden as a "hero", who over past months has leaked thousands of documents describing efforts by the NSA to snoop on individuals, both US citizens and foreigners. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Wales noted that it is difficult for him as a US citizen to go to other countries and lecture and implore leaders not to censor the internet:

Wales went on to say that the spying program would have had little popular appeal if put to a vote by the people. Consequently, he commended Snowden for bringing it to public attention, while scrupulously ensuring that in doing so he did not put any individual in harm's way. Snowden, Wales said, "has exposed what I believe to be ... an affront to the 4th amendment". Clearly outraged, Wales even mentioned that the Wikimedia Foundation had considered moving its servers outside the US, but presently has no plans to do so.

German Wikipedia court ruling

Loek Essers of the International Data Group (IDG) News Service has reported that a German court has held Wikipedia liable for its content, but it still does not have to fact-check the information in advance. Essers stated in his 27 November 2013 article that the Higher Regional Court of Stuttgart ruled against the Wikimedia Foundation, reversing an earlier decision. The full text is here and was only published recently, although the appeals court had actually ruled in early October. The ruling originates from a libel suit brought by a TV station owner who had been the subject of an article on the German Wikipedia that stated: "he had made the Hitler salute on television, and that he had trivialized sex with children in a counseling session."

Michelle Paulson, Legal Counsel for the Foundation, released a statement in a blog post titled: "In legal victory, German court rules Wikimedia Foundation need not proactively check for illegal or inaccurate content". It stated: "One key distinction that was important to the court in its determination was whether Wikipedia was 'alleging' statements in the German-language Wikipedia article (as the plaintiff argued) or simply 'distributing' them through publication. The court accordingly ruled that, as a service provider, rather than a content provider, the Wikimedia Foundation is not liable for user-generated content, nor does it have a duty to proactively check articles for allegedly illegal or inaccurate content." She also wrote that the court found that the Foundation cannot be held liable for financial damage as a service provider. In the blog post, readers are directed to the ongoing discussion of the issue at Wikipedia Diskussion:Kurier. The German court did require the WMF to remove some statements.

In brief

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Why is it news that Jimbo said this about Snowden now? As I recall he said pretty much the same thing in his Wikimedia keynote in Hong Kong, at which there was the usual media presence. Daniel Case (talk) 18:08, 12 December 2013 (UTC)[reply]

German court judgment

As I understand the German court judgment it says the Foundation will have to pay a fine (Ordungsgeld) of €250,000 each time the statement in question is reintroduced into the article (which, by the way, was only semi-protected last time I looked). Andreas JN466 01:54, 13 December 2013 (UTC)[reply]

One source says the Foundation was held to be liable; another says it was not. Which is it? Powers T 21:06, 14 December 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Powers, as I read the German text of the judgment, linked above, each time the material reappears, the Foundation is liable for a fine. It says,
Auf die Berufung der Beklagten wird das Urteil des Landgerichts Stuttgart vom 26.03.2013 (Az. 17 O 814/11) teilweise abgeändert und in Ziff. 1 seines Tenors wie folgt neu gefasst: Die Beklagte wird verurteilt, es bei Meidung eines für jeden Fall der Zuwiderhandlung fälligen Ordnungsgeldes bis zu 250.000,00 EUR, ersatzweise Ordnungshaft bis zu sechs Monaten, oder Ordnungshaft bis zu sechs Monaten, im Wiederholungsfall Ordnungshaft bis zu zwei Jahren, zu unterlassen, wörtlich oder sinngemäß zu verbreiten: a) Nachdem der Sitz des Senders (des Klägers) nach W. verlegt worden war, ging auch bei der Medienaufsicht in Ö. eine Beschwerde ein, dass H. in einem Beratungsgespräch Sex mit Kindern verharmlost habe; b) Zudem gab es Beschwerden, er habe in einer Sendung den Hitlergruß gezeigt;
The German media have stated that once a complaint has been received, Wikimedia has to check the content and remove it if the complaint has merit. If they don't remove defamatory material in response to a justified complaint, they're liable. See e.g. Heise, or for an English summary to the same effect, PCWorld. Another important point was that Wikipedia will not be treated as an online press archive. An online press archive may host outdated articles implying guilt where later none was found to exist. Wikipedia does not have that privilege, as its articles have a significantly greater reach than those hidden in a press archive; in other words, Wikipedia articles have to be up to date. (I am not a lawyer.) Andreas JN466 22:17, 15 December 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I don't disbelieve you, but that doesn't jive with what the WMF Legal blog post says. Powers T 01:09, 16 December 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Powers, I think that's a problem with the WMF Legal blog post. It seems to be very selective in what it reports. You could always ask for clarification there. Andreas JN466 06:45, 16 December 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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