[Foundation-l] Blackout at Italian Wikipedia

Kat Walsh kat at mindspillage.org
Tue Oct 4 22:09:45 UTC 2011

On Tue, Oct 4, 2011 at 4:58 PM, Sue Gardner <sgardner at wikimedia.org> wrote:
> The Wikimedia Foundation first heard about this a few hours ago: we don't
> have a lot of details yet. Jay is gathering information and working on a
> statement now.
> It seems obvious though that the proposed law would hurt freedom of
> expression in Italy, and therefore it's entirely reasonable for the Italian
> Wikipedians to oppose it. The Wikimedia Foundation will support their
> position.
> The question of whether blocking access to Wikipedia is the best possible
> way to draw people's attention to this issue is of course open for debate
> and reasonable people can disagree. My understanding is that the decision
> was taken via a good community process. Regardless, what's done is done, for
> the moment.

I do think it's sometimes appropriate to use the sites to make a
point; the message is well-written, and it's good for everyone who
visits the site to see it. Our existence itself is not politically
neutral, and I do think that WMF, as well as local chapters and
communities, should get involved in policy where it affects the
ability of the sites to operate (actually, this has already been on
the agenda for this weekend's board meeting). And this is exactly the
kind of thing where the Wikimedia community can and should use our
voice (as opposed to things that are only distantly related, such as
global warming, or election procedures).

I am happy to see the Italian community behind the opposition to the
proposed law because I do think it's contrary to what Wikimedia does,
and to see that there is consensus among the Italian community to do
something drastic; there will be a far greater effect on the Italian
wiki than a short blockage if bad laws are passed. (And part of
me--the part that's been around for a billion years--is thrilled to
see a community coming to such a decision on their own, via what seems
like a reasonable process, without waiting for approval or support.)

But I'm not sure about denying access completely for several days. I
agree that for a protest to be effective, it must cause real
disruption, enough to cause people to see the effect and get
attention. I'm not even sure what I would suggest as an
alternative--perhaps a shorter duration of complete blackout, and a
gigantic sitenotice afterward (or beforehand)? Advertising the
existence of mirrors? Allowing people to access articles in a tiny
window below a gigantic notice? I'm not sure. I think the action that
was done may be too much, that maybe something could have been done to
generate as much attention without cutting off access as much.

I also think I agree with Sue: "what's done is done" at least for now.
If this isn't going to be a one-time action (and I'm sure it won't;
bad laws are proposed more and more as governments begin to really
fear what the uncontrolled internet can do) we should figure out how
to resolve these problems in advance.


Your donations keep Wikipedia online: http://donate.wikimedia.org/en
Wikimedia, Press: kat at wikimedia.org * Personal: kat at mindspillage.org
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Mindspillage * (G)AIM:mindspillage
IRC(freenode,OFTC):mindspillage * identi.ca:mindspillage * phone:ask

More information about the foundation-l mailing list