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Censorship The Media

Wikipedia Censored To Protect Captive Reporter 414

Posted by kdawson
from the limits-to-openness dept.
AI writes with a story from the NY Times about a 7-month-long effort, largely successful, to keep news of a Times reporter's kidnapping off of Wikipedia. The Christian Science Monitor, the reporter David Rohde's previous employer, takes a harder look at the issues of censorship and news blackout, linking to several blogs critical of Wikipedia's actions. Rohde escaped from a Taliban compound, along with his translator, on Saturday. "For seven months, The New York Times managed to keep out of the news the fact that one of its reporters, David Rohde, had been kidnapped by the Taliban. But that was pretty straightforward compared with keeping it off Wikipedia. ... A dozen times, user-editors posted word of the kidnapping on Wikipedia's page on Mr. Rohde, only to have it erased. Several times the page was frozen, preventing further editing — a convoluted game of cat-and-mouse that clearly angered the people who were trying to spread the information of the kidnapping... The sanitizing was a team effort, led by Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, along with Wikipedia administrators and people at The Times."
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Wikipedia Censored To Protect Captive Reporter

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  • why (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    what was the purpose of censoring the information? was it in order to not give the Taliban any news time or was it an attempt to hide the hideous things the Taliban does in an effort to not bolster cries to rid us of them once and for all?

    It seems to me that this is more political then anything.

    • To keep him alive. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hey! (33014) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:19PM (#28521549) Homepage Journal

      If Rohde became a cause celebre, the people holding him might be tempted to do a Daniel Pearl style execution for the publicity.

      • by l2718 (514756) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:31PM (#28521687)

        If Rohde became a cause celebre, the people holding him might be tempted to do a Daniel Pearl style execution for the publicity.

        That may very well be the case -- but your rationale is not specific to kidnapped journalists. The real question here, which should be addressed to both Wikipedia and the New York Times is: why censor news regarding this particular kidnapping, when your general policy is the exact opposite, of detailed reporting on every kidnapping case you hear about?

        I find the news of Mr. Wales officially participating in the cover-up quite disturbing. Wikimedia foundation simply does not have the resources to police Wikipedia in this way for all alleged victims of crime. Thus, why were Wikipedia resources spent on this particular case?

        • by KillerBob (217953) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:44PM (#28521847)

          The real question here, which should be addressed to both Wikipedia and the New York Times is: why censor news regarding this particular kidnapping, when your general policy is the exact opposite, of detailed reporting on every kidnapping case you hear about?

          Well, while I'm not sure it's applicable to this incident, I do remember a few years back when news and details about a Canadian aid worker who was kidnapped was kept quiet. In that particular case, it was because he had a husband back home waiting for him... They decided that it was better to suppress the information than risk the taliban beheading him for no reason other than he was gay.

          It could also have been because they didn't want him to become a celebrity. They may have felt that he was kidnapped in the hopes of making headlines, and getting publicity for their cause. Deny them that publicity, and eventually they might give up and let him go.

          *shrugs* we don't know at the moment, and we may never know, but there's two very good reasons to suppress the information.

        • by sbeckstead (555647) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:07PM (#28522093) Homepage Journal
          I would ask why we care that Wikipedia didn't print the current location and status of a reporter when it is neither germain to the rest of the information about him nor of particular immediate interest.
          In the past tense it would be interesting to hear that it had happened but I see no real reason to be incensed that you didn't hear about it while it was happening.
          I assume that the Times requested this and from time to time it is the humanitarian thing to do. You have no "right" to know, I hate it when the public's "right" to know is touted because it is a fiction at best.
          • by l2718 (514756) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:58PM (#28522655)

            I would ask why we care that Wikipedia didn't print the current location and status of a reporter when it is neither germain to the rest of the information about him nor of particular immediate interest.

            You seem to miss the point: this isn't about my right to "know". This is about the way Wikipedia works. The Wikimedia foundation is normally not in the business of writing an encyclopaedia. They are in the business of managing a large number of free-lance contributors who actually write the articles. When the NYT management decides not to write about something, they send all employees a memo. They don't mind the employees knowing what it's all about -- it should just stay out of the paper. Obviously Wikimedia couldn't send a memo "please don't report on this person's kidnapping". Instead, they actively edited the article to reflect their editorial judgement. This is unusual exactly because they don't normally edit the articles. They arrange for hosting, write the software, determine project-wide editorial policies and resolve disputes. But they don't actually write encyclopaedia entries. Wikipedia would never have gotten off the group if these people were the ones to write the articles, and today the project will grind to a halt if Wikimedia staff has to personally police various articles which concern various ongoing emergencies.

            Again: this isn't about our right to know. This is about Wikimedia putting an effort to help this particular person, where it's clear that they cannot help everyone equally situated. It may be wise to adpot a project-wide policy: "no mention of kidnappings while they are ongoing" and leave the actual implementations to the editors and admins. It would be foolish to rely on Foundation staff to try to implement such a policy alone.

            • by mysidia (191772) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:18PM (#28522841)

              If none of the media were reporting the story, then how could such information in an article ever pass [[WP:V]] [wikipedia.org] ?

              Wikipedia is not rumorpedia or spread-stuff-from-the-blogosphere-pedia

              It's an encyclopedia, and well-documented reliable secondary sources are required for information to be posted.

              Original research is unacceptable on WP, as a matter of course.

              And so is anything that doesn't have a source with a good reputation for fact checking to back it up.

              When it comes to articles about living people, the policies are very strict; uncited information that might have some negative aspect (e.g. about alleged kidnappers or kidnapping), must be removed unless cited.

            • by TiberSeptm (889423) on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:36PM (#28522993)
              So what if they can't help everyone in a similar situation? If someone says "help me, I've been shot" do you not help them because it would be unfair since you can not help everyone in that particular situation? No, that would be an asinine thing to do. The times and his family asked them to do this because they and their experts believed keeping the information below the radar would help keep their friend and coworker safe.

              So, it was brought to their attention and they were asked to help. They were able to help so they did. It disgusts me that some people think that is somehow an injustice.
        • by Myrcutio (1006333) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:12PM (#28523299)
          Wiki isn't a news site, it's an encyclopedia. 100 years from now, wiki will have an article about the event, but right now it's just an article 7 months delayed, and possibly a mans life saved. I'd say thats worthwhile and keeping in the spirit of wiki.
        • by Voltageaav (798022) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @01:40AM (#28524677) Homepage
          I've seen several times where a media organization printed something that resulted directly in people being killed. They don't usually care as long as it sells. In this case, it was someone they knew so they did their best to keep it under wraps. A similar case where they hyped something because one of their "own" witnessed it is that airplane that landed in the Hudson. It was all over the news for months and the pilot even ended up getting an invite to meet the President. The same thing has happened many times before with little to no coverage.
      • by Joe U (443617)

        I have mixed feelings about this. I understand the need to prevent any harm to the reporter, on the other hand we know now that Wikipedia can't ever be considered an unbiased source. (If it ever could, but that's another debate)

        It's one thing not to publish something, it's another thing to remove something published.

    • what was the purpose of censoring the information?

      These days, I wouldn't be surprised if it was entirely unintentional. Wikipedia has a very bad habit lately of marking just about anything for deletion, and for making it impossible to contribute without holding exactly the same view of reality as the core (read: constantly unemployed and constantly watching) team.

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:02PM (#28521339) Journal
    Seriously, the reporter is kidnapped. You know what his captors want? Publicity for their campaign. If they get the world's attention, they kill him -- this gives them maximum returns on their actions.

    By keeping the secret, they may have kept him alive long enough for him to escape.

    You may call it censorship, I call it protecting the life of a journalist.

    Or, since I DNRTFA, I could be completely off base. But I did read about this kidnapping previously, and I think I'm on track here. Plus I slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by spire3661 (1038968)

      You dont censor the truth in this manner. I am VERY disappointed in wikipedia's stance on this. They should be COMPLETELY impartial. Either you represent facts or you have interests, choose wisely wikipedia. I had no idea that the people who run wikipedia actively changed stories for political ends.

      • by Spike15 (1023769) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:18PM (#28521535)

        I had no idea that the people who run wikipedia actively changed stories for political ends.

        How is keeping a journalist alive "political ends"?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:23PM (#28521589)

          It's obviously a pro-life bias.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by spire3661 (1038968)

          He was a 'political' prisoner of the Taliban, lies were actively purported to achieve an end. Active omission of facts is a lie and is unacceptable from a source of information that views itself as factual. Wikipedia should have absolutely no interest in a story beyond the facts presented.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Keep that in mind when spire3661 decides to become a reporter and gets kidnapped by the Taliban.

          • by Eponymous Coward (6097) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:40PM (#28521787)

            That's easy to say when it isn't the life of your father or brother or son at stake. I absolutely agree that Wikipedia should be interested only in facts but like any principle, there are situations worthy of an exception. In this case, I don't think the timely publishing of the event was all that valuable, especially in comparison to the potential downside of publishing it.

            Perhaps you no longer trust Wikipedia. Personally I'm not particularly bothered by this as the truth has come out.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by KillerBob (217953)

            You do realise that there's plenty of times when there have been perfectly good reasons to lie, either by omission, or by outright misleading statements?

            At the risk of invoking Godwin's law, perhaps the most blatant example would be the bombing of Coventry. The allies had advance knowledge of the November 14, 1940 bombing raid planned on Coventry, but chose to do nothing about it. They knew that people would die in the raid, (we don't actually know how many, but somewhere between 500-1000 people died), but

          • by MarkvW (1037596) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:14PM (#28522197)

            Of course Wikipedia should have an interest in the story beyond the mere facts presented. They need to worry about copyright and tort liability for example. That kills your argument.

            What you probably meant to say is that Wikipedia should have no MORAL interest in the story beyond the mere facts presented. Fortunately, many people (including Mr. Wales)do not agree with you.

            When you balance the risk of a single human life in this particular case against one website's terms of use policy, the decision isn't very hard.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Mr_eX9 (800448)
            Or you could grow up a little bit and see the utility of what was going on here. Get off the soap box--denying the Taliban the press they wanted was the correct thing to do. Your adherence to ideals might have gotten this man killed.
      • by honkycat (249849) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:19PM (#28521543) Homepage Journal

        Or you get out of an imaginary dream world and realize that your choices affect the lives of others and that sometimes the idealistic option is not the right one. If not getting someone killed is a "political end," then I'm 100% in favor of their actions.

        Furthermore, Wikipedia aims to be an encyclopedia, not a news outlet. It's not at all obvious that there's a conflict in restraining information for a temporary period. Have you noticed that they tend to clamp down pretty freely on articles that are hot news topics, such as celebrity deaths?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by spire3661 (1038968)

          This is a VERY slippery slope you are on and I for one do NOT find that wikipedia should be in the suppression of information business, even temporarily. It goes very much against the grain of what many view wikipedia to be. Wikipedia is very much a social network and would do well not to undermine people's confidence in it, since WE provide the content.

          • by JPLemme (106723)
            Frankly I have MORE confidence in Wikipedia now that I know it's run by real humans who used good judgment. And this is probably the first time I've ever said anything good about the site's editors. Not to mention the fact that -- believe it or not -- there are approximately a zillion OTHER websites where one could go to try to get the reporter killed. In fact, if you really wanted the Taliban to kill the reporter and you couldn't get anybody to help, you could open an account on Blogger and start a "David
          • by honkycat (249849) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:05PM (#28522071) Homepage Journal

            Freedom is great.

            With it comes responsibility.

            If exercising that responsibility through editorial actions in a case where a real human being's life is in real danger of being ended is unacceptable to your view of what Wikipedia should be, then I am profoundly thankful that you are not running Wikipedia. Information wants to be free, but this man's family and friends want him to come home safely. One of those is more important.

            Anarchy is a slippery slope as well, as this case illustrates.

            • by bky1701 (979071) on Monday June 29, 2009 @10:06PM (#28523233) Homepage
              Not strangely at all, countries like Iran and China use the exact same rationale to do what they do. Maybe in this case the good outweighed the bad, but that exact reasoning can be used to suppress all sorts of information. Sometimes, the public should know things which may put people's lives in danger, for better or worse. Sometimes, those who would be in danger are the exact people who want to suppress the information. It is a very thin if you start to believe that any life is worth censorship.

              I don't think this case is the beginning of any of a slippery slope, especially since all involved were private groups. Maybe it is a bit questionable that Jimbo was involved, but he's been involved in a lot worse which no one ever talks about. What unnerves me is people who think like you, making these sort of statements without seeing how they have already been abused. If there is a slippery slope, you're sliding down it.

              Also, anarchy is NOT a slippery slope. Everything in history points to the idea that from anarchy arises order. The existence of government today points to that fact, unless you're religious. That is why it is far better to err on the side of anarchy than to err on the side of fascism.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by GaryPatterson (852699)

            All of which is so easy to say when neither you nor anyone you love stands to be the person who suffers most.

            Would you be in such a rush to publish if it were your wife, son, daughter, mother, father or whatever? Knowing that you'd be giving the publicity to actual terrorists and likely signing the death warrant of your loved one?

            I'd bet a vast amount of money that you'd cave on your principles, especially when strict adherence to them gives the kidnappers precisely what they want.

            Get off your soapbox and c

      • by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:59PM (#28522033)
        "Censorship" is the wrong word being used here. Look up the definition of it. There is no "official" suppression of the information, since Wikipedia is not a government entity. They are a private organization so any removal of information is "editing" not "censorship".

        Freedom of speech does not include the right to force others to say what you want them to say. Freedom of speech includes the right to not speak.

        So maybe the suppression of facts is a "lie", but that's not immoral by itself especially since the purpose was to protect a life. Absolutely no one out there has a vested in interest in getting this information and no one is harmed by not having this information. And of course as we see, the information is now available, it was merely delayed.

        Also, last I checked, Wikipedia is not a news outlet anyway. Why should they "report" this information? Neither is it a public bulletin board.
    • by jipn4 (1367823) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:14PM (#28521487)

      Seriously, the reporter is kidnapped. You know what his captors want? Publicity for their campaign

      And how is that different from any other person that gets kidnapped and that the newspapers report on?

      I'll tell you: it's only different because it's a reporter has been kidnapped. When it's a doctor, politician, priest, baby, nun, lawyer, businessman, girl, or oil worker, they smear it all over the front pages and milk it for all it's worth.

      I find this double standard pretty disgusting.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Why should it be? GP is absolutely right. In NONE of those cases should it receive publicity - if publicity is what the kidnappers want. Our supposed "right to know" ends when it can cost someone else their life in exchange - particularly if that exchange is not one that the victim has agreed to.
        • by aztracker1 (702135) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:34PM (#28522401) Homepage

          I personally don't mind a little restraint from news outlets. However, as in this case, the driving force seems to be self-motivated instead of a consistent policy. This same organization has a history of doing just the opposite when it isn't a reporter. And will likely continue to do so. It's this level of hypocrisy I have contempt for. I don't respect people or organizations that don't follow their own supposed moral code, period.

      • by budgenator (254554) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:22PM (#28522263) Journal

        With so many contractors, journalists, and even tourists floating around Afghanistan, some are bound to be kidnapped. The recent escape by David Rohde provides a happy conclusion, though these things often end up with a bullet in the head, or a head sawed off for all to see. Kidnappings are so common in Afghanistan that most barely make the news. ...

        David Rohde's journey was peculiar because it's . . . well, peculiar. He is a high-profile man associated with a high-profile company. Otherwise, his kidnapping was just one of probably hundreds, or more.

        The dangers of going unembedded are different than when with soldiers. I could give some hints that could increase the safety of correspondents and contractors, but those hints are not for public discussion other than this: If you are a civilian contractor or journalist who goes into areas with possibility of kidnapping, itâ(TM)s important to give written permission for a rescue attempt. For servicemembers, no permission would be needed, but journalists, contractors and NGOs will likely not be rescued without permission from a spouse or close relative, unless that permission was granted in advance. Precious time will be lost gaining those permissions. Most rescues are better done immediately.

        There have been times when rescues could have occurred but permission was slow in coming. Our "rescue people" are the best in the world. I cannot address the situation of David Rohde because I do not know the facts, other than that he was kidnapped in Afghanistan and taken to Pakistan. After he hit Pakistan, everything changed. The first days after a kidnapping are crucial. ...

        And so that's about it. I sat on David Rohde information and am happy to have done so. Would the New York Times have done the same for a soldier or for me? That would be their decision.

        Michael Yon
        Afghanistan
        The Road to Hell: Part II [michaelyon-online.com]

        That's a pretty good catch-22, if he wasn't a Pulitzer winning Journalist, his kidnapping would have been as newsworthy a purse snatching in NY.

    • by CarpetShark (865376) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:28PM (#28521649)

      Seriously, the reporter is kidnapped. You know what his captors want? Publicity for their campaign.

      Amnesty saves captives' lives by the very principle of spreading information of their capture, and has been doing so for a very long time. I suspect this has little to do with saving the captive's life, and more to do with a newspaper deciding it knows how to control the media, and probably should for their employee/friend's sake, without taking the time to think about whether it's actually the right course of action. Ironic for a newspaper to believe in censoring information.

      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:04PM (#28522069) Journal

        Amnesty saves captives' lives by the very principle of spreading information of their capture, and has been doing so for a very long time.

        Captives who are not public figures are very different from captives who are. The reasons for abducting them are different, the gains from how the captivity is ended are very different.

        An organisation like the Taliban has little to gain from killing a nobody -- and public attention to the fate of that captive provides a disincentive to spare their life. The threat of reprisal, etc, if there is public attention, is simply too great for them to off some random person. Killing a public persona -- that's a different matter. Then the gains from killing them may outweigh the risk of reprisal, etc.

      • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:40PM (#28522481) Homepage Journal

        Amnesty saves captives' lives by the very principle of spreading information of their capture, and has been doing so for a very long time.

        Why don't you think of some examples then spend half a second thinking about how those examples might be different from this situation? Amnesty typically shines a light on governments. Governments, by their very nature, are subject to political pressure as they often depend to some degree on the goodwill of other nations. Freelancing militants? Not so much.

  • Double Standard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Knave75 (894961) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:03PM (#28521345)
    I have never understood why news about kidnapped reporters is kept in the strictest confidence, whereas the media pretty much never offer the same to a member of the public who is not a part of the media fraternity.

    There should be standards. Either kidnapping stories are reported widely, or they are not. I see no reason for journalists to have lives of more inherent value than anyone else. This would be like doctors giving preferential treatment to other doctors (eg. less waiting time in countries with socialized medicine) or teachers distributing textbooks only to the children of other teachers. This is not to say that it doesn't happen, but it is profoundly wrong.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder how many of those public statements about kidnaps are in the new because parents, family members or friends push for it to be there while the more kidnap savvy reporters know it will only hurt their efforts for safe release/escape of their friend.

    • by bugnuts (94678)

      Professional courtesy is a very common thing in all areas.

      News will blackout information for all sorts of reasons. You never hear the names of rape victims or child criminals/victims either. And the government makes requests and threats all the time.

      • Re:Double Standard (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:34PM (#28521723)

        News will blackout information for all sorts of reasons. You never hear the names of rape victims or child criminals/victims either.

        But it's "never hear the names of rape victims", not "do hear the names of rape victims, unless they're related to someone who works at a newspaper - then we hold their name secret". I don't think people would be having as much of a problem with this if it was the principle of "never report the name of a kidnapping victim". The "double standard" referred to in the subject line is the impression that a newspaper will happily report on a soldier, doctor, or politician which gets kidnapped, but screams bloody murder if someone else reports that a journalist is in the same situation.

        I also don't think people have a problem with any individual news site deciding that some shlub reporter from the Times getting kidnapped shouldn't be reported on, it's when they start to force third parties like Wikipedia to kowtow to their wishes that people start to get upset.

    • Re:Double Standard (Score:4, Insightful)

      by subsonic (173806) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:37PM (#28521763) Journal

      In many cases, journalists are taken specifically for their connection to the media. Whereas other kidnapping may simply be for intimidation or money, a journalist is captured for their perceived value in communicating with the outside world. Infomation blackout is also more protection for not just that journalist, but other reporters in that region.

      While the "media fraternity" is a very real aspect of the business -as every profession gives a certain amount of preference to its own members- I don't think its fair to say that they ignore other valuable stories related to hostage taking or kidnapping. However, the struggle to suppress information plays out in a more public forum (the terrorist trying to spread his message and the media and law enforcement trying to get their reporter back) than if the terrorists/kidnappers were talking to a private individual or family. Which is exactly what this story is about.

      Does Wikipedia have a certain policy regarding "news" vs. matters of record that are not "news"? I haven't read Wikipedia's article policy completely but it seems like now would be a good time to try and create a buffer between news reporting and the collection of historical fact (as close as one can be). Wikipedia's goal is to be comprehensive, not exactly the most immediate source of information. Plus it would cut down on people trying to be the "Firstie" to report major news in a secondary outlet like an encyclopedia.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Acer500 (846698)

      his would be like doctors giving preferential treatment to other doctors (eg. less waiting time in countries with socialized medicine) or teachers distributing textbooks only to the children of other teachers. This is not to say that it doesn't happen, but it is profoundly wrong.

      Sadly, the doctors' preferential treatment happens all the time here in Uruguay, where medicine is being more and more socialized (they wanted a level playing field... and the current government are leveling down :( ). You absolutely must know a doctor, or a political figure, or you'll have 2,3 or 4 months wait period to see a specialist (say, a dermatologist). Unless you pay one of the soon-to-be-outlawed US style health insurances, which are expensive by local standards (upwards of 100 USD/month plus some

  • Hypocrites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jailbrekr (73837) <jailbrekr@digitaladdiction.net> on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:05PM (#28521369) Homepage

    They'd gladly blab about a kidnapping if it wasn't one of their own. It does, after all, sell newspapers.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hey! (33014)

      Citation please?

      • Re:Hypocrites (Score:5, Informative)

        by Hawthorne01 (575586) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:33PM (#28521709)
        Okay, you got it [wikipedia.org]

        The New York Times gladly hid behind the 1st Amendment and blabbed about a 100% legal, effective and yet secret means to track terrorist money around the globe, yet clammed up when it was their hide on the line.

        Hypocrites.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hey! (33014)

          You might or might not be right that this was something they ought not have published, but it's not the same situation. Jailbrekr claimed they'd have published the information if this guy didn't work for them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      [Citation Needed]. Please, find examples where they blab about a kidnapping of a non-reporter, when doing so would cost the life of the victim. You may find one or two - but not nearly as many as occur every year. I know the movies like to portray reporters as uniformly unethical creatures who will sell their mothers for a story and career advancement, damn the consequences. But the realitiy is that you'll be hard pressed to find those examples I asked for.
  • by jipn4 (1367823) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:09PM (#28521411)

    What kind of bullshit argument is it that news coverage would increase the reporter's value and make negotiations more difficult? When do newspapers show that kind of consideration to other people? Do they keep other people out of the news because it inconveniences them or puts the at risk? Safety trumps freedom of speech? Since when? Only when one reporter is doing something for another, apparently.

    What this story really shows again is that newspapers are corrupt: they are capable of censoring the news, and they will do so if it benefits the companies or the people working there. Furthermore, they have enough leverage to influence sites like Wikipedia.

    We need to find ways of disseminating the news free from censorship, whether by Iranian madmen or self-serving American news organizations.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're getting off-topic.

      What you should be asking yourself is: is it ethical to withhold information to the public, when the release of said information will cause more harm than good?

      And if you truly believe that "Information wants to be Free", are you willing to die for that belief? Are you willing to sacrifice a person's life? Does that person have a say in the matter?

  • by exabrial (818005) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:09PM (#28521413)
    This seems like the same train of thought as "responsible disclosure" for security issues in software. Yes, it was censored information, but they came forward with it eventually and humankind (or a human in this case) was better off.

    Hmm, now we walk a fine line. Who do we trust to censor something in order to preserve human life and yet won't misuse their power to instill their own will?
  • Disgusted (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bignetbuy (1105123)
    Where did this censorship policy originate? And where was it when people were being kidnapped on a daily basis in Iraq? Daniel Berg? The Christian Science Monitor lady? The media outlets were practically tripping over themselves to report every detail -- and feed airtime to the kidnappers -- yet one of their own gets nabbed and now the policy is "stfu so our guy doesn't get hurt" ?

    Un-friggin-real.

    Of course, now that the media outlets have revealed their little secret, you can bet the terrorists wi
  • by rm999 (775449) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:11PM (#28521433)

    I believe strongly in free speech, especially on Wikipedia (I am a semi-active editor there). But this wasn't really Wikipedia's domain. Wikipedia is not a newspaper (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_is_not_a_newspaper [wikipedia.org]). It's not the job of Wikipedia to report on someone's life until reliable news sources have already done so. In other words, Wikipedia should never contain breaking news.

    • This is exactly right.

      Furthermore, the policy statement, Wikipedia is not censored [wikipedia.org], should be read carefully.

      It doesn't refer to absolute freedom to put anything into Wikipedia. Indeed, it is part of a long and venerable policy page which defines what content should not go into Wikipedia, Wikipedia's "editorial policy" if you like.

      "Wikipedia is not censored" covers only the limited issue of "offensive" content, such as profanity or explicit sexual material. It says that "'being objectionable' is generally n

    • SO stick your head in the sand because the big boys are ACTIVELY suppressing a story? good plan.....

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What defines 'breaking news'?

      Obama was listed on Wikipedia as "sworn in" two minutes after he took the oath of office. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Barack_Obama&oldid=265312210 [wikipedia.org]

      This guy was kidnapped for 7 months, and it was still considered breaking news at that point?

      • by Erik Fish (106896) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:56PM (#28521987) Journal

        Obama was listed on Wikipedia as "sworn in" two minutes after he took the oath of office.

        In an event that was broadcast live by every possible medium and media outlet...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rm999 (775449)

        I believe "breaking news" means you are the first to report the news story, i.e. "break" that story. In the case of Obama's inauguration, its moot because everyone knew about it at the same time - it was a scheduled event.

        Wikipedia, an encyclopedia (which is generally a secondary or tertiary source), cannot report on events like a news source does. It has to cite a news source and establish that the news source has been reliable in the past and can be trusted. This is often a slow process.

    • by AVee (557523)
      Also, it is not depriving anyone of his freedom of speech, just because Wikimedia doesn't want to publish something doesn't mean you are not still just as free to speak about it as before. Not to mention the fact that freedom of speech is intended to make sure that everybody is able to voice his opinion (and new != opnion) and to make sure everybody is able to check the actions of their government (which doesn't seem to be involved).
      Besides, doesn't freedom of speech also mean you're allowed to choose not
  • by synthesizerpatel (1210598) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:17PM (#28521513)

    Just so you guys have the facts on this one, the closest definition of 'censorship that pertains to this subject can be found under 'censor'


    2. a.2.a transf. One who exercises official or officious supervision over morals and conduct.
     

    This doesn't fall under that category, or any similar category. The Times wasn't conspiring to hide the information for their benefit, or because of judgement as to it's morality or offensiveness. They did it to protect the reporter.

    As a citizen, or NYT subscriber, or Wikipedia contributor, you have no right as to the status of the reporters' personal situation. Just because something has occurred and someone knows doesn't mean wikipedia is on the hook to allow it to be published. This is not a moral, heretical, or an issue of the reporters' conduct.

    I'll say it slowly:

    absolutely.
    not.
    censorship.

    • by spire3661 (1038968) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:43PM (#28521821) Journal

      A rose by any other name.....

      No matter what you call it, Wikipedia lied about facts and went about removing anything that went against that. Facts are facts, the reporter was obviously notable enough before the kidnapping to have a wikipedia page, the fact that he was kidnapped is relevant and should be beyond wikipedia's purview to alter.

      Two things really stick out out me in this story.

      #1, news sources would almost never do this for a non-journalist

      #2 Wikipedia shouldn't be in the business of suppressing indisputable facts for anyone.

      • by synthesizerpatel (1210598) on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:07PM (#28522089)

        1. Apples and oranges. A reporter being held hostage might benefit from having the information suppressed, an oxfam worker might benefit more from having the information broadcast as their position would garner sympathy.

        2. You don't have the right to know all indisputable facts. I don't have the right to know your sexual orientation, what medication you may or may not use, who you voted for in the presidential election, where you live, your social security number or your bank account PIN.

        Your friends might know these indisputable facts but is it their duty to put it up on wikipedia?

        I find it comical that people assume everyone else's business is theirs.. Decry the right to privacy for your personal information, and point fingers at those trying to protect the privacy rights of others.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evanbd (210358)

      You're right, the Times didn't censor Wikipedia. Wikipedia censored its contributors. I'm not sure how you could possibly arrive at the conclusion that Jimmy Wales was not "exercising official supervision over conduct". He's an official (in the context of Wikipedia) and he put a stop to certain conduct. So, by your own definition, censorship.

      I happen to think WP and the times did the right thing here; I still think it was censorship. In the same scenario, if the government had been the one doing it, I'

    • by MrMista_B (891430)

      Bullshit.

      Really, that's all I can say. You'd find great empoloyment in North Korea, Iran, or the UK as a person capable of fucking over the rest of the population with your totalitarion 'freedom of information must be destroyed' ideals.

      Seriously. Fuck you, and stay the hell away from my internet.

  • by Alaska Jack (679307) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:35PM (#28521733) Journal

    Obviously, everyone is glad Rodheis home safely. Neverthess, many around the blogosphere have pointed out that the Times has a two-faced approach to this kind of secrecy.

    Take, for example, the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, which the Times did a big expose of back in '06. There were absolutely no questions that this program was

    • Constitutional
    • legal
    • briefed to the appropriate members of congress, and
    • working!

    Yet that didn't stop the Times from announcing to every terrorist from Marrakech to Jakarta all about it, how to avoid getting caught by it, etc.

    Again, there is no dispute that this program was working; in other words, nailing terrorists -> saving civilian lives. Too bad the lives it was saving weren't those of Times employees!

    PS Good overview here [nationalreview.com], by the guy who led the Justice Department's prosecution against the 1993 World Trade Center bombers.

    - AJ

    • Obviously, everyone is glad Rodheis home safely. Neverthess, many around the blogosphere have pointed out that the Times has a two-faced approach to this kind of secrecy.

      In case you're unaware, The Times, among other outlets, back during the Iranian Hostage crisis, did not mention - until after they got out of Iran - that Americans were hiding in the Canadian embassy in Teheran.

      Take, for example, the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, which the Times did a big expose of back in '06. There were absolutely no questions that this program was

      • Constitutional
      • legal
      • briefed to the appropriate members of congress, and
      • working!

      Yet that didn't stop the Times from announcing to every terrorist from Marrakech to Jakarta all about it, how to avoid getting caught by it, etc.

      Again, there is no dispute that this program was working; in other words, nailing terrorists -> saving civilian lives. Too bad the lives it was saving weren't those of Times employees!

      So the Times should not report to the American public when the U.S. Government operates secret facilities which are used to capture some people? If we go that route, and decide that "this hidden government program is a good idea and we shouldn't report on it," while "this hidden government program i

  • by cluge (114877) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:37PM (#28521761) Homepage
    Not trying to troll but this behavior begs the question; Why is it OK to self censor and ask others to censor to protect a reporter, but it's not OK to do the same when coalition soldiers are involved? -cluge
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It probably has to do with the fact that, generally, MIA soldiers are identified publicly by the DoDâ"at least after a while. Once the Pentagon's gone public, there's no reason not to report on it. This sort of goes to my problem with some of the "double standard" replies here: It's true that the media tend to report widely on kidnapping victims when they're not kidnapped by terrorists, but instead by rapists or murderers or just plain crazy folk. I'm uncomfortable with the scope of some of this report
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday June 29, 2009 @07:53PM (#28521945)

    I have this weird picture stuck in my head - a bearded mullah, sitting at his computer somewhere in Pakistan, complaining "WHY aren't these Wikipedia edits STICKING?!"

  • by rfc1394 (155777) <Paul@paul-robinson.us> on Monday June 29, 2009 @08:03PM (#28522065) Homepage Journal

    In this case, the information about this reporter was suppressed to protect his life, not to prevent, say, someone else's embarrassment or to cover-up misconduct or otherwise prevent the publication of information the public should know to protect the democratic process.

    Back during the Iranian Hostage crisis, the news media cooperatively agreed not to publicize the information that there were Americans hiding in the Canadian embassy until after they were able to get out of Iran. One reporter likened the potential for publishing such information to be on the level of "giving the Nazis' Anne Frank's home address."

    This is the sort of limited exception to the free publication of relevant information to the public where the news media can and does suppress a story on a temporary basis in order to prevent death or injury to others or where it is important to the issues involved that the story not be exposed for a short time. When people talk about "responsible journalism," it is this sort of behavior they are referring to.

    Paul Robinson - <paul@paul-robinson.us [mailto]> - My Blog [paul-robinson.us]

  • Wikipedia cannot, ever be trusted. It's not the information that's the problem. In fact, it's not even the malicious editors. It's the process. The process of editing information on Wikipedia is set up to allow manipulation, censorship and propaganda by anyone willing to spend the effort.

    The summary says it all:

    The sanitizing was a team effort, led by Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, along with Wikipedia administrators and people at The Times.

    This is the process of information control. If you want something on or off Wikipedia, the goal is to ingratiate yourself with, or outright become, one of the people with authority over the articles. Lock, delete, edit, undo and generally abuse every one of the hundreds of bureaucratic hurdles that have been created in order to mould pages to your worldview and no other. The obstacles to dealing with misinformation are far, far more numerous than putting up, and guarding, that misinformation in the first place.

    My own experiences are many, but most recently, I have tried to undo an edit that turned a "religion" field in a scientist infobox [wikipedia.org] into a "religious stance" field. The ensuing plastering of "atheist", "christian" and "deist" tags on scientist infoboxes left and right left little doubt that the pages were being commandeered into a larger "culture war" debate.

    My efforts to undo this and return the tag to its original status were for nought. The template was locked down tight. When I argued for a reversion, I was stonewalled [wikipedia.org]. They argued for "consensus", that revision could only take place once agreement was reached, that their existed "guidelines" on the page directing that the tag could be used in this way. All this despite the fact that no agreement had ever been reached on the change in the first place [wikipedia.org].

    The purpose of all the rules and regulations and procedures was clear. Someone wanted that tag to stay the way it was, and was prepared to go to great lengths to make sure of that outcome. Wikipedia admins have elevated stonewalling to an artform.

    People own Wikipedia pages [slashdot.org]. Entire topics have been purged [slashdot.org]. Consider the fate of Pidgey [slashdot.org], purged from existance simply because certain people took exception to his presence and began a campaign to excise him. You may consider these issues trivial, but make no mistake; they show an systemic and fatal failure in the ability of Wikipedia to police itself.

    Methods exist, and are defended, which allow persons of ill intent to control the flow and presentation of any page so long as they are willing to expend the effort. This state of affairs did not come about by chance. It is a status quo admired and supported from the very top, with Wales himself turning to it again and again. The rot has set in at the top in Wikipedia and the whole structure is now tainted.

    Wikipedia cannot be trusted. For anything. Ever. There is no way whatsoever of knowing who controls the flow of information, or what their intent is, on any page. Wikipedia and its admins have no interest in the truth; only in their ability to control it.

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Monday June 29, 2009 @09:26PM (#28522895)

    Because else it would have gone their way. Period.

    Freedom is slavery,
    war is peace,
    Wikipedia is truth.

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