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French intelligence wants Wikipedia to delete online content

10 April, 2013

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: Französischer Geheimdienst verlangt Löschung eines Wikipedia-Artikel...

The Wikimedia Foundation was asked on 4 March 2013, by French spy agency Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur (DCRI), to remove its article in French “Station hertzienne militaire de Pierre sur Haute” (the military station of Pierre sur Haute) considered by the agency to contain classified military information the publication of which violated the French Penal Code.

According to a judicial source quoted by AFP, the request for the deletion of the article was due to the fact that the French-language Wikipedia article was deemed by DCRI to have compromised "classified material related to the nuclear firing orders chain of transmission".

Wikipedia refused to delete the article which had been online for almost 4 years already without having raise any such problems, and which contained information already well and publicly known, so much the more as the agency did not bring any arguments for its request, nor did it indicate exactly what part of the information was considered classified. Actually, it seems that a large part of the information comes from a publicly available video in which Major Jeansac, the chief of the respective military, gives a detailed interview and a tour of the station for a reporter.

As a result of Wikipedia’s refusal, on 30 March 2013, the agency contacted a random volunteer Wikipedia admin that was living in France and forced him, by threatening him with jail, to delete the respective article, although the volunteer had had nothing to do with the article. This extra-judicial action raises serious concerns regarding the respect of the human rights by the intelligence agency.

“While we have never received a request of this nature from the DCRI before, it is unfortunately not unheard of for governmental entities to contact, or even harass, local users. The Foundation strongly opposes any governmental attempts to intimidate the volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to build one of the world’s great educational resources that everyone can freely share in. We are saddened and disappointed to discover that the DCRI believes the tactics they employed in the name of security in this matter could be acceptable under any moral or legal authority. The Foundation was, and remains, willing to work with the DCRI to resolve this matter if possible, but we cannot condone any harassment of individuals who have done nothing wrong,” was Wikipedia’s statement.

The article was restored by other volunteers and there is now an English article with the same subject. The entire affair has resulted in a dramatic increase of the number of views for the respective article. Thus, DCRI has obtained the exact reverse effect of what it wanted.

French spies demand removal of a Wikipedia entry, threaten random Wikipedia admin in France when they don't get their way (7.04.2013)

Wikimedia Foundation elaborates on recent demand by French governmental agency to remove Wikipedia content. (8.04.2013)

DCRI intimidates a Wikipédia administrator due to an article (only in French, 6.04.2013)

La Quadrature du Net condemns the pressure made by DCRI on a Wikimedia France responsible (only in French, 7.04.2013)

Military Hertzien station of Pierre-sur-Haute (only in French)



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