In a message it posted today, Wikipedia said it has hidden the Italian-language portion of the site due to a new law proposed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's administration. According to the message, the site section will remain hidden while the law is being debated in Italian parliament and could face permanent deletion, if the law is passed. The Italian front page of the open encyclopedia is currently being redirected to the same message in Italian.
The law, called "DDL intercettazioni" (Wiretapping Act), provides "a requirement to all Web sites to publish, within 48 hours of the request and without any comment, a correction of any content that the applicant deems detrimental to his/her image," according to the Wikipedia message. "However, the law does not require an evaluation of the claim by an impartial third judge--the opinion of the person allegedly injured is all that is required, in order to impose such correction to any Web site."
This basically means that anyone who feels offended by any content published online, including Wikipedia, can directly request the removal of such contents and its permanent replacement with a "corrected" version and imposes a fine of up to some $16,000 for those who don't comply. On the other hand, it doesn't require the party that makes the request to provide proper proof that the content in question is actually untruthful.
According to the message, the new law, if passed, would challenge the concepts on which Wikipedia was built: neutrality, freedom, and verifiability of its contents.
In response to a request for comment, Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit parent organization for Wikipedia, pointed to its online statement that summarizes its position regarding what the Italian Wikipedia did. In part, the statement reads:
The Wikimedia Foundation supports the rights of all people to access our free knowledge content everywhere in the world, and we equally support the work of our editors to collaborate in the production of this free knowledge without the spectre of sanctioned punishment or attacks towards their work.
Since the message was posted earlier today, Italian Internet users have been signing a petition to keep the law from being passed. The petition has thus far garnered more than a thousand signatures.
Editor's note: This article was updated at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday to add the statement from Wikimedia Foundation.