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French Government Ministries tamper with Wikipedia entries

By Michael Cosgrove     May 12, 2009 in Internet
The French Interior and Culture Ministries have been caught red-handed in the act of changing the content of a French Wikipedia page about a highly controversial law proposal concerning....internet abuse. Other pages have also been changed.
Those two Ministries are engaged in a tough fight to get the Internet law voted in parliament. Called the “Hadopi Law’, an acronym of the Authority which was created to find ways of protecting copyright on the internet, its primary target is the illegal downloading of music files.
The law proposes sanctions against illegal downloading via tougher surveillance of the IP’s of visitors to music-content sites. These sanctions would take the form of a “gradual response” disposition, which would begin by warning the offender that he has been traced via his IP and asking him to stop downloading, followed by a letter threatening to cut off the his internet connection, and, finally, blocking his internet account via his provider.
Critics of the law, which was voted down by parliament and is to be re-submitted shortly, point to the technical and legal difficulties that would render it all but inoperable, and issues involving freedom of expression.
An amendment which would radically change the law was proposed by the Socialist Guy Bono, the leader of the opposition’s campaign to block the law’s implementation. It is this amendment, and its presentation on the Wikipedia page, which was altered several times from computers whose IP’s are located in the Culture and Interior Ministries. The changes made were an attempt to present the government’s position in a more favourable manner and the method used was to discredit Bono’s proposed Amendment.
Th first attempt was made on February 14th, when the Government wrote that the Amendment had no equivalent in other countries. This is true, but fails to mention that those countries are actively considering laws that would take into account Bono’s ideas and that these laws stand a good chance of being voted.
Another change said that Bono’s ideas were highly contestable. That too is true, but the change forgets to mention that the only people who contest the Amendment is the Government itself, the Socialist-led opposition having declared its intention to vote in unison against the law if it doesn’t take the Amendment into account.
Example of Government Change to a Wikipedia page
Example of Government Change to a Wikipedia page
Screensave. No Attribution
A third alteration inserted a reference and hyper-link to a government internet site page put up by the Culture Ministry called “10 erroneous ideas about the proposed law”, describing the page as being “an Explanation and a synthesis.”
Finally, a quote from a Culture Minister Advisor who said he was “Fiercely supportive” of the law was deleted, presumably because it was thought to imply an aggressive and over-zealous government approach towards the law.
All these fixes to the Wikipedia page were reversed by the page’s authors and the attempts to change it stopped with the recent attention this issue has been getting in the French press.
The French Authorities intervene relatively often on Wikipedia in order to delete what they see as being negative content or to insert its own version of issues. One notable example is the Interior Ministry’s deletion of references to an article by the political investigation paper, Rue89, which accused a State Secretary of using his political weight and influence to try and get his daughter a job at the Sorbonne University.
These references were deleted four times by Interior Ministry computers between May 9th and 13th, before being put back up each time and the following scandal led to the withdrawal of her job application.
Other examples include the page devoted to TF1, the state-run TV station, which has been modified on several occasions in order to give favourable opinions upon the station’s editorial line, and Presidential staff intervention, from the Elysée Palace, on pages concerning Presidential staff.
(Source: L'Expansion)
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