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France

France's intelligence agency slammed for censorship

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-04-08

The foundation behind Wikipedia has accused France's domestic intelligence agency of forcing a volunteer to remove an article because it was deemed to contain classified military secrets.

Wikimedia, the foundation behind Wikipedia, released a statement Saturday accusing France's DCRI domestic intelligence agency of forcing a volunteer to remove an article because it allegedly contained military secrets.

The article on the free online encyclopedia, first published on the site in July 2009, cited a military radar station in Puy-de-Dome in south-central France.

The Wikimedia Foundation said it was contacted on March 4 by the DCRI, which said the article on the French language Wikipedia "contains classified military information and that publication of such information violates the French penal code".

After a thorough investigation, Wikipedia's legal team deemed it "did not have enough information" to remove it from the site.

Reprisals?

Then, on March 30, the DCRI contacted a Wikipedia volunteer in France and "insisted that he use his administrative rights to immediately remove the article, or face serious and immediate reprisals," Wikimedia said.

According to the French interior ministry, the article concerned "the organisation of the national defence's nuclear component".

Wikimedia France said the volunteer had nothing to do with the article in question and was threatened with detention and possible charges.

Unsatisfied with the response, the French intelligence agency summoned the Wikipedia volunteer on April 4 to their offices.

“This volunteer, which was one of those having access to the tools that allow the deletion of pages, was forced to delete the article while in the DCRI offices, on the understanding that he would have been held in custody and prosecuted if he did not comply,” the Wikimedia statement said.

Pressure

"Under pressure, he had no other choice than to delete the article, despite explaining to the DCRI this is not how Wikipedia works."

The French ministry however denied making threats, saying it had simply informed the volunteer about "the risk of legal action" against himself and Wikipedia France.

The article has since been restored to the website by a volunteer in Switzerland, according to Wikimedia France.

But the DCRI's actions have backfired. Since the article was republished on the site on Friday, it has been viewed 68,000 times according to Wikiscan. Now one of the most read pages on the site, the article has also been translated from French into English and German.

In cyberworld, this phenomenon is known as "the Streisand effect". As defined by Wikipedia, "it is manifested by the significant increase in the dissemination of information or documents by the mere fact of having been the victim of an attempted removal or censorship."

(FRANCE 24 with newswires)

Date created : 2013-04-07

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