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Censorship The Internet Your Rights Online

Politician Forces German Wikipedia Off the Net 569

Posted by kdawson
from the inconvenient-truth dept.
Stephan Schulz writes "A German Member of parliament for a left-wing party, Lutz Heilmann, has obtained a preliminary injunction against the local chapter of the Wikimedia foundation, Wikimedia Deutschland e.V., forbidding the forwarding of the popular http://wikipedia.de to the proper http://de.wikipedia.org. Apparently Heilmann is not happy with the fact that his Wikipedia article (English version) contains information on his work for the former GDR Stasi, the much-hated internal secret service. Wikimedia Germany displays a page explaining the situation, and has announced that it will file an objection to get the injunction lifted. The German Wikipedia has more than 800,000 pages, and is hosted, like all Wikimedia projects, by the Florida-based Wikimedia Foundation, and hence beyond the effective reach of at least German politicians and judges."
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Politician Forces German Wikipedia Off the Net

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  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @06:56PM (#25772923)

    She knows how well that works.

    Frankly, I am living close to Germany and until now I didn't know that guy. Ok, I'm not the leftmost person on this planet, but maybe he just wasn't that important. Now, though, I do. And I know that he's probably not the nicest person to be around.

    I also wonder how many have considered voting for his party and now, learning about this and what kind of people are inside it, won't touch it.

    Not to mention that, if you really insist, you can still choose a different copy of Wikipedia to get information about him. Ok, granted, not in German, but is there anyone in Germany using the internet and NOT able to read English?

    • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:01PM (#25772953)
      I don't think anyone's really surprised that this came out of Germany. See:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_in_the_Federal_Republic_of_Germany [wikipedia.org]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Germany#Freedom_of_Speech [wikipedia.org]
      It's scary really. I said only a few days ago that I would never visit or stop over in Germany.
      • by lukas84 (912874) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:03PM (#25772971) Homepage

        It's the same in almost every European state - most anti racism laws undermine Free Speech.

        • by corsec67 (627446) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:11PM (#25773031) Homepage Journal

          most anti racism laws undermine Free Speech.

          Could you have a anti-racism law that doesn't undermine free speech?
          One of the basic premises of free speech is that offensive speech should be allowed.

          A big part of anti-racism laws is to prevent offensive speech as it relates to race, right?

          • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:19PM (#25773075)
            Well of course; laws saying that you can't discriminate when hiring don't undermine free speech, though that same employer should be able to have a ferociously racist personal blog. But the point lukas84 is making is that anti-racist-speech laws violate free speech and are bad laws.
            • by Alex Belits (437) * on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:29PM (#25773153) Homepage

              anti-racist-speech laws violate free speech

              True.

              and are bad laws.

              Not necessarily so. Elevating free speech over other rights is a part of American ideology, however it is not universally accepted, certainly not in Europe or Asia.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Jerry (6400)

                For Americans "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech,"

                abridge /brd/ [uh-brij]
                -verb (used with object), abridged, abridging.
                1. to shorten by omissions while retaining the basic contents: to abridge a reference book.
                2. to reduce or lessen in duration, scope, authority, etc.; diminish; curtail: to abridge a visit; to abridge one's freedom.
                3. to deprive; cut off.

                Defining someone else's utterance or writing as "hate" speech (politically incorrect) and then outlawing it is an

                • by smidget2k4 (847334) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @08:14PM (#25773381)
                  Hate speech is generally more than "politically incorrect." Usually hate speech is defined as being intended to incite violence against someone. For example, if I gave a speech and used an ethnic slur for each group of people I talked about, sure, I'd be in bad taste, but it wouldn't be hate speech. Now, if I gave that same speech minus the ethnic slurs, but was rallying the crowd and telling them they should kill these groups, that would be hate speech.

                  It is the same idea as not being able to yell fire in a crowded theater. You have the freedom of speech until it harms someone else.
                  • by alzoron (210577) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @09:07PM (#25773657) Journal

                    What you just described is already taken care of with laws against inciting riots. Why do we need more laws covering the same thing? It's like having a law against apples, and another law against red apples.

                    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                      by k8to (9046)

                      Whether or not hate crimes are a wrongheaded concept is not an issue on which I have a strong stand.

                      However, it is possible to craft anti-hate laws which essentially make it harder to incite violence in code. For example, a campaign of hatred is mounted without explicit calls to violence, but with inciting of violence being its aims. Supporters of hate crimes who are both genuine and considered would be attempting to achieve a reduction in this type of activity.

                      I don't claim the existing hate crimes are we

            • Actually the anti-racism laws are used to suppress certain political viewpoints. They're not used against individuals, but mostly against political parties.

              Or at least that's the case here. This was obvious before any such law was passed, but the lefties were in power.

              For example associating "socialism" with "national-socialism". THEN they will invoke said laws. Associating islam, an ideology stating DIRECTLY that "there must always be war" with war, that will get those laws invoked. An ideology with hate s

          • A big part of anti-racism laws is to prevent offensive speech as it relates to race, right?

            Well yes, but I for one think that it's stupid, they should be about stopping violence and discrimination, not someone making nigger jokes.
            Of course once you try to stop violence people claim you must stop "incitement to violence", which is a blanket term they use for nigger jokes and using the word "black" instead of "coloured".

          • by Artraze (600366)

            >> most anti racism laws undermine Free Speech.
            > A big part of anti-racism laws is to prevent offensive speech as it relates to race, right?

            Right, but another big part is preventing discriminatory actions, like not hiring someone because of their race. Also, hate crime legislation (where the punishment is escalated if the victim's race plays a prominent factor). I can't see either of these as being protected speech. Thus, the 'most'.

            (Incidentally, I would personally say that very few anti racism

        • by jellomizer (103300) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @08:23PM (#25773429)

          Fix the problem by not talking about it, yea that works.
          By making racist speech illegal all it does is hide all the racist people in society, they are still racist still finding their racist niches, and still can be dangerous. All it does is trying to force people to ignore the problem then actually confronting it.
          Hey if you know the guy is a racist then you have a decision to associate yourself with him or not and accept the consequences for the actions. But if you don't you can much easier be seduced.

          Also it creates a taboo with the hate just gets deferred somewhere else.
          Ok Color of the skin is out, as well as religion. However you can still get people with disabilities, or education, smarts, choice in dress, types of music you listen to, the Operating Systems you prefer to use at home, what text editor you use.....
          Silence doesn't fix the problem it defers it.

    • First the security tools, now this... I used to want to emigrate to Germany.

      Instead of having national moments of silence to commemorate calamity after the fact, how about we do it before, like now.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by lukas84 (912874)

        Switzerland still exists.

        But they are starting to ban pornography on ALL mobile phones here (wonder how that works on internet enabled smartphones) and of course violent video games.

        It's all downhill from here. The hippies are winning :)

        • by flnca (1022891)

          The hippies are winning :)

          Read up on history, man. The hippies were those that brought you pornography and freedom of sexuality in the first place.

    • by cjfs (1253208) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:25PM (#25773125) Homepage Journal

      ... his own [lutz-heilmann.info].

      Please contact the server administrator, [no address given]

    • Ok, I'm not the leftmost person on this planet, but maybe he just wasn't that important. Now, though, I do. And I know that he's probably not the nicest person to be around.

      I also wonder how many have considered voting for his party and now, learning about this and what kind of people are inside it, won't touch it.

      I can tell you more about his party:
      The "Linkspartei" (literally translates as "left party") consists partly of former members of the SPD (moderate socialists) and partly of former members of the

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      In this case, it's even better than the Streisand effect. Consider, if somebody accuses you of being a creepy authoritarian prick, censoring him is, perhaps, not the most effective of rebuttals.
  • I want to know who these judges are that keep granting absurd injunctions. Is it really enough to just ask to take down any site you want? Wikileaks, and now wikipedia itself? Has anyone checked if this judge is still alive and it's not just his clerk rubber stamping a signature on every piece of paper that lands in his inbox? If he is alive I'd like to see him sitting in a defendant's chair intead of pompously in his dubious majesty up on the big throne.
    • I want to know who these judges are that keep granting absurd injunctions. Is it really enough to just ask to take down any site you want?

      Whoever this judge is probably subscribes to the same school of thought as that judge in Kentucky who ordered a batch of domain names transferred to the state.

  • Oops (Score:5, Funny)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @06:58PM (#25772939) Homepage

    Thankfully for Lutz Heilmann, who formerly worked for the Stasi, attempting to censor information does not cause it to be widely publicized.

    There should be a name for that.

  • by Tubal-Cain (1289912) * on Saturday November 15, 2008 @06:59PM (#25772947) Journal

    forbidding the forwarding of the popular http://wikipedia.de/ [wikipedia.de] to the proper http://de.wikipedia.org/ [wikipedia.org]

    So what part of that is he claiming is illegal?

    • by wild_quinine (998562) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:16PM (#25773061) Homepage

      So what part of that is he claiming is illegal?

      The defamation he's about to recieve on his wikipedia page.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:49PM (#25773257)

        Anyone editing his page should be careful to sticking to the facts, else they just justify its removal as well as degrading the stature of Wikipedia. German news agencies should get a copy of the wiki at the time when Heilmann complained and check all the info on it, then report on it noting the parts he specifically complained on including the findings of their own research. It wouldn't hurt for academia and the general public to join in on this as is their duty as citizens.

        It needs to be made clear to politicians and bureaucrats everywhere that their very positions permit or even demand microscopic public inspection of their actions. If they are going to act to ban negative comments on themselves then the comments need to be at a minimum unprovable as facts or better yet provably false. If comments are found to be provably true then the response to the government official(s) involved should be harsh.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:20PM (#25773089) Homepage

      According to the page they have put up instead, the german company has been forbidden from forwarding to any site that contains the accusations against him. Not linking to the accusations, but any forwarding. Under that ruling, they definately couldn't forward to google.com either...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by saibot834 (1061528)

        To clarify a few things: This is NOT a final judgment. In Germany, we have a "Einstweilige Verfügung" (preliminary injunction [wikipedia.org]), so if Mr. Heilmann wants to shut wikipedia.de down, he goes to a judge and the judge may approve in urgent cases, without asking the opposite side. This is only temporarily until there is a hearing with both sides arguing, and also, if it turns out that Mr. Heilmann was wrong, Wikimedia Deutschland has entitlement to damages that were caused by the "Einstweilige Verfügung

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @06:59PM (#25772949) Homepage
    If it's true then what judge in their right mind would block a site for telling the truth?
    • by techno-vampire (666512) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:19PM (#25773083) Homepage
      In principle, at least, it could happen in Britain if the truth were considered sufficiently defamatory. Unlike in America, the truth is not an absolute defense there against libel and if you can persuade a judge that you were defamed you can win a libel suit even if what was published was the plain, unembellished truth. If, let's say, you had photographic evidence of a politician cheating on his wife and put them up on the web, he could sue and the judge would probably end up ordering them taken down. I doubt that anybody would go this far, but there's nothing in their law to prevent it.
  • by Charles Dodgeson (248492) * <jeffrey@goldmark.org> on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:03PM (#25772977) Homepage Journal
    People may have doubted whether a former DDR Stasi employee would reform or continue with old ways of treating the public. Now all questions about this particular thug have evaporated.
  • FAIL! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Snook (872473) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:05PM (#25772985)

    If you don't want publicity associating you with the Stasi, this probably isn't the best method of challenging the accusation.

  • by jawtheshark (198669) * <slashdot@@@jawtheshark...com> on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:09PM (#25773011) Homepage Journal
    If you really have a shady background, the internet will surface the truth. So, either you deny and have the consequences, or you admit your faults and people might start to respect you that you're an upstanding person.
  • It's well-known that he worked for the Stasi, it seems, but he didn't like the claims that he didn't finish his university degree, or that he worked for a porn-related business (I don't know if either of these is true). The reason he's dealing with the forwarding is that wikipedia.de is under German jurisdiction, but de.wikipedia.org is not.

    The lesson here is: totalitarian repression is A-OK, but porn is over the line.

    German article here:

  • domain name (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bzuro (1205892)
    why don't you guys just transfer the domain name to some foreign body (wikimedia naturally comes to mind), out of the german jurisdiction?
  • by blind biker (1066130) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:15PM (#25773055) Journal

    I didn't know that. Now I do. And so do a few tens of thousand other people who would have not known, if he had not tried to have the German Wikipedia shut down.

    In fact, I bet that most of the readers of the German Wikipedia didn't know that Lutz Heilmann was a Stasi, and now they do.

    Who the fuck elected this crooked fully-employed ex-Stasi to the Bundestag, though?

    • Who the fuck elected this crooked fully-employed ex-Stasi to the Bundestag, though?

      German people, I assume.

  • Is there anyone here that can translate wikipedia.de's homepage for us?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Snowblindeye (1085701)

      Is there anyone here that can translate wikipedia.de's homepage for us?

      Here you go, translation of wikipedia.de's current page:

      In accordance with the injunction granted by the district court in Luebeck on Nov 13th 2008 to Lutz Heilman, member of parliament (Left Party), the Wikimedia Deutschland e.V. is forbidden from "redirecting the internet address wikipedia.de to the internet address de.wikipedia.org" as long as "under the internet address de.wikipedia.org" certain statements are published about Lutz Heilmann. Until further notice the service of wikipedia.de will have to be discontinued in its existing form. Wikimedia Deutschland e.V. will appeal this injunction.

      The Wikimedia Deutschland e.V. is not the publisher of the "Wikipedia" which is published under de.wikipedia.org and has no influence over its content. Instead, Wikimedia Deutschland e.V. is a non profit organization to further free knowledge, which simply educates about the usage of Wikipedia. The operator of the Encyclopedia is the Wikimedia Foundation, a foundation that is incorporated in Florida, USA with headquarters in San Francisco.

      If you want to support us, you can donate for us. More information under http://spenden.wikimedia.de/ [wikimedia.de] That you for your help.

      Our thanks go to JBB Lawfirm for the fast and competent help.

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:21PM (#25773099) Homepage

    You can't work for an agency like the Stasi and just apologize for it. To be forgiven, you must don sackcloth, repent and repudiate what you once stood for. If this politician hasn't repudiated everything--everything--the Stasi stood for, he should be hounded for life for having worked for them.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:35PM (#25773181) Homepage Journal

    With a name only 1 letter away from LULZ he's prime fodder for Encyclopedia Dramatica.

    Ironically, the article about him [encycloped...matica.com] says

    There is currently no text in this page, you can search for this page title in other pages or edit this page.

    IT'S CENSORSHIP! It's censorship I say!

  • Title is wrong. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr@NoSPaM.mac.com> on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:40PM (#25773213) Journal

    Change "Politician" to "STASI snitch".

    -jcr

  • Actually... (Score:3, Informative)

    by tmk (712144) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @07:46PM (#25773245)
    Mr Heilmann didn't have a problem with Wikipedia publishing information on his work for the former Stasi. It's one of few facts in the article he does not complain about. He had some problems with enemies in his own party and with the yellow press. And he insists he had never interrupted his university education.
  • by br00tus (528477) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @08:37PM (#25773477)
    That Heilmann worked for the German Democratic Republic's Ministry for State Security has been well known for a while, he is objecting to claims on Wikipedia that he was a pornographer and the like, which there is very little evidence of. Of course, the person summarizing this making bullshit up has a much better chance of getting people up in arms over it, lying always helps in mud-slinging since the point of mud-slinging is to throw as much mud as possible and see how many uninformed people will believe any stuck, debunking lies is mostly a waste of effort.

    In terms of free speech in Europe this is very minor, people are jailed for analyses of Nazi treatment of Jews during World War II that don't follow a set pattern. If people are being sent to jail for writing in Europe, I don't see why closing down a press or web site is that big of a deal. From my understanding of things, many Nazis tended to be barbaric, so I would be skeptical of apologetic books on how nice concentration camps were, but I don't think people should be jailed for it, or the books and presses even shut down.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cyxxon (773198)

      In terms of free speech in Europe this is very minor, people are jailed for analyses of Nazi treatment of Jews during World War II that don't follow a set pattern.

      Citation please?

  • Summary is wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by canajin56 (660655) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @09:09PM (#25773665)
    Or at least misleading. While he MAY not like the fact that they link him to the Stasi, the reason for the injunction is that the German Wikipedia page claims he never finished his university degree, and was involved in pornography in some way or other. The fact that he was in the Stasi was well known, and caused a political shitstorm when it first hit the presses, though he somehow managed to evade impeachment. He denies having not finished his degree, as well as his involvement in a pornography business. Whether or not they are true is unknown to me, but it DOES say so on Wikipedia (without sources)!

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