Techcrunch reported today that German Politician Lutz Heilmann, has taken legal action in the county court of Luebeck (North Germany) resulting in them issuing an order preventing the German Wikipedia (Wikimedia e.V.) from linking its domain wikipedia.de to the Web site wikipedia.org, as long as the German language version of wikipedia.org makes certain statements.
According to OhMyNews these statements include Heilmann’s past as a member of the police in East Germany – as well as allegations that he has threatened an ex-boyfriend, Focus Online suggested that Heilmann objected to claims that he had interrupted his studies at university, and that he had participated in a business venture involving pornography.
What this shows is that while being a Politician may have given the Heilmann the power to order a local german version of the free online public contribution encyclopedia site to remove its links to the main database, it did not give him the power to shutdown the parent site wikipedia.org which is hosted in miami. Furthermore taking such drastic action drew even more attention to the entry, currently ranked number 1 on wikirage. But was he right t take legal action? There is currently a lot of web chatter about the rights and wrongs of this court action and about the rights to freedom of speach versus the wrongs of slander and liable. Its interesting to see that the views on “freedom of speach” vary so widely between nations and raises some very interesting questions about the need to have some universal laws in a world so connected by the internet.
I guess that given the nature of wikipedia, we should maybe be more surprised that this isn’t happening more often. While wikipedia can be a fantastic source of information and in the main is quite accurate, it was been criticised by many academic institutions for often being inaccurate and not being what they would consider to be a good and reliable source of information. Some institutions and local authorities have gone as far as to banned it on on their networks.
Heilmann has now issued a statement saying that because the offending remarks have been removed no further action is required, and the connection between the german version of wikipedia and wikipedia.org will soon be restored.