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Censorship Wikipedia Government The Military

French Intelligence Agency Forces Removal of Wikipedia Entry 179

Posted by timothy
from the do-not-look-there dept.
saibot834 writes "The French domestic intelligence agency DCRI has forced a Wikipedia administrator to delete an article about a local military base. The administrator, who is also the president of Wikimédia France, has been threatened by the agency with immediate reprisals after his initial refusal to comply. Following a discussion on the administrator's noticeboard, the article (which is said to violate a law on the secrecy of the national defense) has been reinstated by a foreign user. Prior to pressuring the admin, DCRI contacted the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), which refused to remove the article. WMF claimed the article only contained publicly available information, in accordance with Wikipedia's verifiability policy. While the consequences for Wikimedia's community remain unclear, one thing is certain: The military base article – now available in English – will get more public awareness than ever before."
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French Intelligence Agency Forces Removal of Wikipedia Entry

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  • Great test case (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jbolden (176878) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @09:30AM (#43378055) Homepage

    This is a terrific test case on secrecy laws. No one violated laws, no one is using secret information. All the proper people were notified and there was a clear cut request / order and a clear cut refusal to comply. At the same time this is military information. This is just about the perfect test case.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No one violated laws, no one is using secret information.

      So how is this a "terrific test case on secrecy laws"? If this goes any further than it has, this is a test case for the French military's ability to overstep its authority. Nothing more.

      I expect this "case" to go no further.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        I'm gathering the French govt has the ability to prevent the republication of already public information. Those sorts of laws are common in Europe and Canada.

        • Re:Whut? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Entropius (188861) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @11:45AM (#43378909)

          There's a jurisdictional question: can the French government punish a French citizen for simply being part of the same organization as a non-Frenchman who breaks French law?

          • If it did, wouldn't that have given them better leverage over twitter?

            Recall the french government sued twitter after they refused to hand over the names/IP addresses of some people who committed the horrible crime against humanity of trolling somebody else.

            Instead of complying, twitter basically told them to GFY. I'd imagine that if there were any french people working for twitter, they would have been snagged by that.

            • Those are smaller more petty bureaucrats or police with less international leverage then higher level military ranking officials with special official positions only given out to single people and probably attachment to the French version of 3 letter agencies though. So in this case the guy is probably out of luck and must comply or else.

              Thats were the "just" part comes in.

          • by alexo (9335)

            There's a jurisdictional question: can the French government punish a French citizen for simply being part of the same organization as a non-Frenchman who breaks French law?

            If the question is "Can the government do <something>?", the answer is always "yes, if they have the means to do it".

            If the question is "Is it permitted/legal/moral/ethical/right for the government do <something>?", I humbly submit that it is irrelevant.

        • by poetmatt (793785)

          no organization on the planet has the ability to prevent republication of already public organization. Not if it's on the internet. There are no laws that can enforce such a concept successfully.

          • by poetmatt (793785)

            *already public information.

            • by idontgno (624372)

              Let me introduce you to my little friend "born secret" [wikipedia.org].

              As far as I know, it remains in the arsenal of ideas surrounding extra-special classification of extra-special data, as absurd as it seems: the idea that you can stuff the genie back into the bottle.

              I believe the laws involved are still on the books, and the idea was never completely challenged and overturned, so it's lurking out there.

          • by jbolden (176878)

            no organization on the planet has the ability to prevent republication of already public organization.

            European governments do it all the time in newspapers and television.

            Not if it's on the internet

            That's why this is interesting. Because it is much harder on the internet but there is a whole body of law that assumes it is possible and needed.

            There are no laws that can enforce such a concept successfully.

            Sure there are. Consider child pornography laws which make it a major felony to sell, distribute,

    • Re:Great test case (Score:5, Informative)

      by DanielRavenNest (107550) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @01:37PM (#43379667)

      And in a wonderful example of self-reference, this Slashdot article is referenced in the Wikipedia article.

    • It's never ceased to amaze me how with a set of eyeballs and maybe
      ibid binoculars you can to a high degree determine the goings on on
      military intallations. All the while being under a regime 'you're not to
      know, not to publish'.

      The military and intel are indeed 'dumb' and mindless institutions,
      operating on reflexes sooner than rational human thought. Actually
      that''s not a bug, it's a feature. The feature though becomes useless
      where there's interaction with society. Like here.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        It's never ceased to amaze me how with a set of eyeballs and maybe
        ibid binoculars you can to a high degree determine the goings on on
        military intallations. All the while being under a regime 'you're not to
        know, not to publish'.

        Depends on the installation. Many aren't doing anything particularly secretive or even restricted or classified, so they don't bother.

        But if you try to do some of your "observation" around say, Area 51, armed guards will come out in fairly short order to shoo you along. Even if you're

  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @09:31AM (#43378057) Journal

    I wonder what that French agency which likes to create French words instead of using ones derived from other languages will coin to name the Streissand effect.

    • by zAPPzAPP (1207370) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:40AM (#43378435)

      Unlike the usual cases, the Streisand effect does not really fit here.
      Sure it will happen.
      But the french intelligence agency does not care about 'public attention'. They care about what information other intelligence agencies can obtain about their bases.
      And if those are interested in said base at all, they will find the info wikipedia has on it, with, or without Miss Streisand's help.

      • by Solandri (704621) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @06:45PM (#43381217)
        There's an apocryphal story that after the end of the Cold War, some members of the CIA and KGB got together for dinner and a chat. The CIA folks complained about how difficult it had been to get information out of the USSR. All the border checks, the security, the secrecy, the restrictions on freedom were so difficult to overcome. They lamented how much easier it must've been for the KGB folks to conduct espionage.

        The KGB folks said that on the contrary, it was actually harder for them. Yes they had an easier time acquiring and extracting information from the U.S. But it was mixed in with an ocean of conspiracy theories, entertainment, hoaxes, marketing exaggerations, gossip, etc. Separating the signal from the noise was a daunting and sometimes impossible task. They couldn't be sure if a report of a new top secret plasma energy canon was real, or if it was just someone spilling the plot of a new sci-fi movie secretly being produced. And they had to waste a tremendous amount of resources vetting out stories in the National Enquirer in case they were true.

        Obscurity isn't the only way to enhance security. Seems to me something like wikipedia, where anonymous people all over the world can edit entries, would be a great way to sow misinformation.
    • by MDMurphy (208495) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @12:24PM (#43379151)

      Effet Pierre-sur-Haute

      Might as well make it local.

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      I didn't even know France had a military.

    • I don't understand why they are so pent up over this military base. The radio station will only tell their troops where to fall back.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      I wonder what that French agency which likes to create French words instead of using ones derived from other languages will coin to name the Streissand effect.

      Only if it happens in Quebec. In France, they just tend to incorporate it as-is. Stop signs in France say "Stop". Stop signs in Quebec say "Arret". And the French words for e-mail and such... originated in Quebec.

      So Quebec will have to come up with a new name "to keep French pure" while the France French will probably just call it whatever seems appro

  • That's military intelligence for you. Nice radio station you have there, France.

    • "Military intelligence", is that something analogical to "celibate Irish friar" or "honest politician"?
      • by morcego (260031)

        "Military intelligence", is that something analogical to "celibate Irish friar" or "honest politician"?

        No. It is statistically possible to find examples of said friar and politician.

        "Military intelligence" is more in line with "Santa Claus" and "Easter Bunny".

        • by Kjella (173770)

          "Military intelligence", is that something analogical to "celibate Irish friar" or "honest politician"?

          No. It is statistically possible to find examples of said friar and politician.

          I think they called the last one "Honest Abe", I'm pretty sure the species is extinct.

          • by BitZtream (692029)

            Interesting bit of history, Honest Abe was one of the most deceptive military leaders our country has ever known. He used the North's 'high speed' (for the time) rail and instant telegraph communications to spread FUD to his advantage.

            Honest Abe was far from honest.

            • by nedlohs (1335013)

              Well duh.

              If someone has "Honest" in their name, they aren't. Just like if a country has Democratic in its name, it isn't.

        • by tepples (727027)

          "Military intelligence" is more in line with "Santa Claus"

          The Easter Bunny I'll give you. But it was statistically possible to find Nicholas of Myra, and it is still statistically possible to find a seasonal courier, recognizable from its sales associates in red coats in shopping malls, that specializes in delivering toys and hobby products on December 25.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by warGod3 (198094)

      What is so secretive and important about a radio tower and roughly 20 personnel? Especially when they have three more of those.

      Hell, there's more informative articles on Gitmo, Diego Garcia, and Area 51... and those are still up.

      I think someone in the French military got their panties in a wad about nothing...

      • by roman_mir (125474) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:39AM (#43378419) Homepage Journal

        I think someone in the French military got their panties in a wad about nothing...

        - careful, it's France. You don't insult the panties that the French military is brandishing without suffering a severe ... retreat.

      • I think someone in the French military got their panties in a wad about nothing...

        Wikileaks has leaked the last communications that French Intelligence had with Wikimedia Legal. Quote:

        DCRI: Your mother was a hamster and you father smelt of elderberry!!!!
        Wikimedia: Is there someone else up there we can talk to?

      • by beckett (27524)
        the French wikiversion has links to other wireless stations around france. this is a portion of the French emergency communications network to be used in the event of nuclear war. i think this is why France is interested in keeping this off wikipedia, no matter how badly they screwed it up.
  • by marcello_dl (667940) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @09:34AM (#43378079) Homepage Journal

    You don't need to devour spy novels or watch 007 all night long to understand one simple aspect of the story (as reported in the summary, at least): once news about X leak out, X is to be considered COMPROMISED.

    In this case it is blatant. Something that shouldn't have been there is available? assume the bad guys got it, if it is important, STFU if it's not important.

    So, this move from the French secret service is muscle flexing, or counterintelligence (making people concentrate on a decoy), or a way to make openness and free exchange of information look contrary to national interests.

    It is not a way to increase national security.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 06, 2013 @09:42AM (#43378135)

      I think the important part of the wiki article (English version) is that it mentions nuclear attack orders may be relayed through the station and that there are four others, with additional wiki links to those stations.

      • >I think the important part of the wiki article (English version) is that it mentions nuclear attack orders may be relayed through the station and that there are four others, with additional wiki links to those stations.

        oh ok then, they simply want to draw the hackers' attention to the base so that a nuclear first strike can be blamed on a hacking attempt :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, however the fact being that this information was apparently in a TV show broadcast on French regional TV and now available from the station's web site probably makes any campaign against Wikipedia redistributing it somewhat moot.

        (captcha: retracts, i.e. what Wikipedia doesn't.)

    • by zAPPzAPP (1207370)

      Or maybe they expect that as long as the article exists, someone may be dumb enough to edit in something really important.
      Must not have happened yet.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    China says thank you, but we already knew about this.
  • Too easy... (Score:5, Funny)

    by rmdingler (1955220) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @09:40AM (#43378119)
    You can certainly understand the collective French nervousness regarding military secrets. Look what happened when that Maginot thing got out.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Reminds me of the old joke..

      Q: How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris?
      A: Unknown, it has never been tried.

  • :)

  • Let me show you something: page view statistics from the last 90 days [stats.grok.se].

    The article had ZERO hits for months ... until yesterday.

    • by zAPPzAPP (1207370) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:45AM (#43378463)

      Which means, no one else knew about it!
      Finally Slashdot is delivering real news!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That link goes to the recreated article. The original article is still available as well to the admins. These stats are most likely just for the new page not the original.

      From the discussion (translated):
      I recreated the article, if the government seeks a victim you would be nice to direct them to me. And tell them that I fuck. - GaAs ( d ) April 4, 2013 at 22:39 (CEST)

  • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:26AM (#43378335)
    Could have been worse like another time in New Zealand - at least they didn't sink Wikipedia's boat and kill their photographer.
  • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:41AM (#43378437)
    ARE BELONG TO US!
  • How can an intelligence agency be so stupid?

  • The summary has a link [wikipedia.org] to a supposedly restored page. But it appears to be encoded or written in some dead [youtube.com] language.

  • A couple of days ago, Bruce Schneier posted a blog entry that seems relevant. There's something in the military mindset about secrecy that I don't understand, and perhaps none of us do.
    How people talked about the secrecy surrounding the Manhattan project. [schneier.com]

    • The Manhattan Project was successfully kept secret from the Germans, which was the primary goal. The German atomic program [wikipedia.org] never got very far. How well the secret was kept is known, because, after the war, the major German physicists were interned in a big house in England and the house was bugged. The "Farm Hall Transcripts" record what they said. They didn't know how to enrich uranium in quantity. They didn't know how to make a workable bomb. Their calculations on assembly time for a gun bomb were way

    • Re:Bruce Schneier (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mjwalshe (1680392) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @02:47PM (#43380045)
      you know that the editors of Astounding an early SF mag worked out that something was going on at Los Alamos because of all the subscriptions form the staff there.
  • The scientists building *MY* unstoppable superweapon will not be sequestered in the fortress of doom, nestled in the mountains of despair, on the far side of the desert of death. They will be working in an anonymous office park in silicon valley. Their cover story will be that they are working for a bioinformatics startup, and can't talk about what they're doing in there because of both an NDA and HIPAA.

    No one will ever notice until it's too late to stop me.

  • Here:

    <URL:http://binged.it/ZG9LQ0>

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