In protest of a bill proposed to the Italian parliament that could lead to widespread web censorship in the country, the entire Italian Wikipedia Web site has voluntarily taken itself down.
The law, “DDL intercettazioni,” or the “Wiretapping Act,” would require Web sites to publish a correction within 48 hours to any content a person deems “detrimental to their image.” If Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, for example, didn’t like the salacious details published about him on Wikipedia, he could force the site to publish a correction regardless of whether the report was true.
Wikipedia, whose function is to act as a free, comprehensive, and neutral encyclopedia, points out that it would hardly be able to do its job.
Google reported that the country had made a number of specific requests to remove videos criticizing senior government members in recent years, including a request by the Central Police in 2010 to remove a YouTube video that criticized Berlusconi.
Also last year, Italy suggested classifying all Web sites as part of the press, which would allow the country to censor them. And in February, the head prosecutor of the Amanda Knox murder trial in Italy successfully got a blog that was covering the trial taken down.
Italian-language Wikipedia had this note to share with readers Thursday:
The Italian language Wikipedia may be no longer able to continue providing the service that over the years was useful to you... The obligation to publish on our site [a] correction... 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.
The Wikimedia foundation has issued a statement in support of the Italian Wikipedia community.
It appeared that the Italian Wikipedia page page was still available Thursday when accessed from the U.S., but it is not believed to be accessible in Italy.