Wikipedia leads the strike to defend the freedom of press

Wikipedia leads the strike to defend the freedom of press

Originally Published Oct. 19, 2011:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”

This article of the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations is the one that Wikipedia Italy has been appealing to, while leading the strike against the “Wiretapping law,” on its way to being approved by the Italian Parliament.

Wikipedia Italy`s strike lasted three days,
from Oct. 4 to 6. During those days, Wikipedia Italy’s usual 800,000 entries were replaced by a statement which read: “Dear reader, at this time, 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 by Law to actually delete it.[..]”

Paragraph 29 of the Wiretapping law states: “For the Internet sites, including newspapers and periodicals delivered by telematic way, the statements or corrections are published, with the same graphic characteristics, the same access methodology to the site and the same visibility of the news which they refer.” This means that anyone who considers any content published on the Internet defamatory of his or her person can ask for a correction and, regardless of the truthfulness of the content, the website has to take off the Internet or correct everything that is considered inappropriate by that person.

Every May 3 we celebrate freedom of press, but when something like this comes to our ears, as journalist but also as people, is it fair to ask ourselves: where has freedom of press gone now?

Luca, one of the most active users, helps us to understand what stands behind Wikipedia and especially the recent strike.

Luca stared working with Wikipedia in 2006.

“I was doing some research on electoral results for the course of Political Science, when I discovered that the database I used to check decided to give all its data to the English-speaking version of Wikipedia. So, I decided to check out what was that “Wikipedia”, I liked it and so I checked if there was an Italian version. On Jan. 2006, my “wiki-journey” was began” said Luca.

He told us that being a Wikipedia user means being a volunteer and so anyone can do whatever he wants to; here it comes the main issue for which Wikipedia often is not that well known.

“We usually state that if you use Wikipedia, you do it at your own risk”

“We usually state that if you use Wikipedia, you do it “at your own risk. It means that we have no responsibility if an article is outdated or badly written or it has mistakes in it. […] There are articles that don’t state their sources, and there are others that do; there are poorly written articles, and there are exhaustive and complete ones, and so on. […] There is absolutely no preemptive control on any edit, everyone can edit Wikipedia. You too. Yes, I’m talking about you. This doesn’t mean at all that you can do whatever you want. You have to follow some rules: you can’t make any disruptive edit, you have to follow a neutral point of view, you have to cite the sources… It’s not so simple at the beginning, but after a while you get used to it – and remember that you’re never alone, so you may ask to the older users, like me, for advice or help.” said Luca.

Wikipedia is a big community and that’s why all together they stood to defend the right of freedom for their site; the strike seemed to be worth of it. In fact, some amendments have been proposed by the Italian Parliament, but no one will know its true influence until the meeting of Wednesday 12 Oct.

“At the moment I wouldn’t call it a victory, because this amendment have to be approved by the Chamber first, and then by the Senate. It’s still a long road, and given that such bills usually take a very long time to be approved (if they get approved, and that’s a big if), we will be still very careful.” said Luca.

And what will happen if the Parliament doesn’t approve the amendments?

“Wikimedia Foundation may decide upon the closure of a project. Anyway, if this paragraph will be approved, the Italian-speaking community will experience a “digital mass-suicide”: most of the members, me first, will just leave the project, because we don’t have time, willingness and most of all money to afford the fines (from 7,500 to 12,500 euros). And that would really be a pity, because in ten years it.wikipedia produced more than 845,000 articles, covering every argument and issue, from music to geography, from sport to history, from literature to music, and so on. But I’m optimistic about it: I don’t think the law will be approved, but we’ll have to fight for our independence still.” said Luca.

As we’re waiting for the final decision, I think about all the people who fight for freedom of press and how important freedom of speech is in our lives.

Only 15% of the world’s population enjoys a completely free press. Isn’t it unbelievable that in 2011 everyone is not free to express what they think? It’s good to have restrictions about the way we can express ourselves to the world but is it fair to prevent somebody from expressing himself?

Everyone here at Community is free to be whoever he or she wants to be and that’s why Community is well know everywhere and that’s why people want to get in to it. You can have blue, brown or yellow hair, you can be confused about who you are, you can dress however you like and no one will never look at you in a different way.

If a “bunch of teenagers” achieved the objective to create a community where freedom makes people respectful, why isn’t the whole world able to preserve freedom of speach?

The main reason, also the reason why this law was proposed, is it because people are afraid. They’re scared that, with too much freedom, people from opposite sides will say false statements about them just to look better to the world.

So here’s some advice, why don’t we try, instead of reforming laws, to reform ourselves?