Wikipedia founder Jimmy Walescaught 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:
It makes it very difficult for someone like me to go out as I do speak to people in authoritarian countries and say: You shouldn't be spying on activists, you shouldn't be censoring the internet, when we [in the US] are complicit in these acts of extraordinary intrusion into people's personal lives.
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.
Wikipedia-copying professor-witness troubles US judge – An article from Bloomberg News noted that Georgetown University Law Professor James Feinerman's copying of Wikipedia to write a report on China's alleged efforts to induce its citizens to steal IP undermines his credibility as a witness. Calling Wikipedia "inherently unreliable", US district judge Jeffrey White claimed that Feinerman's credibility as an expert witness is severely hindered, and ruled that Feinerman should not be permitted to testify, as "any probative value is substantially outweighed by the potential for prejudice and to confuse the issues."
Wikipedia more reliable than CIA world factbook – Probably not, although Tim Dorstall, a writer for Forbes, said this week that Wikipedia uses a more accurate measure of income inequality than the CIA World Factbook. At the time of our publishing, the renowned factbook has not commented on the article.