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Wikipedia Operator Sues NSA Over Massive Surveillance Effort

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Despite his pandering to Israel on numerous occasions, Wikipedia’s Wales is right to oppose US government surveillance.

THE WIKIMEDIA FOUNDATION, the organization that operates the wildly popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia, says user privacy has been violated and that it’s going to court to try to fix it. (ILLUSTRATION: Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia)

Wikimedia filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in the US District Court for the District of Maryland against the National Security Agency and the US Department of Justice for allegedly violating its constitutional rights on Wikipedia. The organization argues that an NSA program collecting information wholesale across the Internet, known as upstream surveillance, is a violation of its First Amendment right of free speech and a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable search and seizure.

Wikimedia said it is joined by eight other organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and represented by The American Civil Liberties Union. Wikimedia has been working on the lawsuit for “approximately one year,” said its general counsel, Geoff Brigham.

“Privacy is the bedrock of individual freedom. It is a universal right that sustains the freedoms of expression and association,” Wikimedia wrote Tuesday on its blog. “These principles enable inquiry, dialogue, and creation and are central to Wikimedia’s vision of empowering everyone to share in the sum of all human knowledge. … If people look over their shoulders before searching, pause before contributing to controversial articles, or refrain from sharing verifiable but unpopular information, Wikimedia and the world are poorer for it.”

Wikipedia is the world’s most comprehensive online encyclopedia. The service comprises editable wikis that allow users to correct misinformation and add details on individuals, events, organizations and ideas. More than 500 million people worldwide visit Wikipedia each month, and at least 75,000 people around the globe add or edit the content…

In an editorial in The New York Times on Tuesday, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales argued that the US government’s sweeping collection of information across the Web has put Wikipedia in its crosshairs and has discouraged the service’s users, many of whom seek to operate anonymously.

“On our servers, run by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, those volunteers discuss their work on everything from Tiananmen Square to gay rights in Uganda,” Wales wrote. “Many of them prefer to work anonymously, especially those who work on controversial issues or who live in countries with repressive governments.”

… Twitter last year sued the US government to lift a gag order about NSA spying. The move came after Google requested the same of the US Justice Department.

“It’s our belief that we are entitled under the First Amendment to respond to our users’ concerns and to the statements of US government officials by providing information about the scope of US government surveillance — including what types of legal process have not been received,” Twitter legal counsel Ben Lee said last year. “We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad, inexact ranges.”

… Ultimately, Wikimedia wants the US government to stop its upstream surveillance and has asked the court to rule that it is unconstitutional. “Surveillance might be used to reveal sensitive information, create a chilling effect to deter participation or, in extreme instances, identify individual users,” Wikimedia’s Brigham said.

The lawsuit also requests a permanent ban on upstream surveillance and wants the US government to destroy all communications it has collected as part of that surveillance.

The NSA did not respond to a request for comment.

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