Accueil > Communiqué de presse, Projets Wikimedia > French homeland intelligence threatens a volunteer sysop to delete a Wikipedia Article

French homeland intelligence threatens a volunteer sysop to delete a Wikipedia Article

Wikimedia France strongly condemns pressure on Wikipedia sysop by French homeland intelligence agency (DCRI)

 

Lire en français

 

Paris, Saturday 6 April 2013 −

In early March, the DCRI (Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur) contacted the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization which hosts Wikipedia. They claimed that an article on the French-language Wikipedia about a French military compound contained classified military information, and demanded its immediate deletion. The Wikimedia Foundation considered that they did not have enough information and refused to grant their request.

The Wikimedia Foundation has often collaborated with public authorities to follow legal decisions. It receives hundreds of requests every year asking for the deletion of articles, and always complies with clearly motivated requests.

Unhappy with the Foundation’s answer, the DCRI summoned a Wikipedia volunteer in their offices on April 4th. 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. Under pressure, he had no other choice than to delete the article, despite explaining to the DCRI this is not how Wikipedia works. He warned the other sysops that trying to undelete the article would engage their responsability before the law.

This volunteer had no link with that article, having never edited it and not even knowing of its existence before entering the DCRI offices. He was chosen and summoned because he was easily identifiable, given his regular promotional actions of Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects in France.

Wikimedia France cannot understand how bullying and coercitive methods can be used against a person dedicated to promote the freedom and knowledge. As Wikimedia France supports free knowledge, it is its duty to denounce such acts of censorship against a French citizen and Wikipedia editor.

Has editing Wikipedia officially become risky behaviour in France? Is the DCRI unable to enforce military secrecy through legal, less brutal methods?

Let us remember that the article has been available for many years without raising any problems until these last few days.

Intimidation is not the right way to enforce military secrecy in France, and the Internet is not a place that has to be regulated in such a brutal manner. We believe the DCRI has other ways to enforce the law. We hope that an independent investigation will clear up the recent events. France is a legal state, where national security should not be ensured through such measures.

About Wikipedia
Wikipedia is an encyclopedic, collaborative and freely shared website. Each contributor is invited to share his/her knowledge and is responsible about its contributions.
Wikipedia  and the other projects operated  by the Wikimedia Foundation receive more  than 488 million unique  visitors per month, making them the fifth-most  popular web property  worldwide (comScore, January 2013). Available in  285 languages,  Wikipedia contains more than 25 million articles  contributed by a  global volunteer community of roughly 80,000 people.

 

About Wikimedia Foundation
The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia,  the free encyclopedia. Based in San Francisco, California, the Wikimedia Foundation is an  audited, 501(c)(3) charity that is funded primarily through donations and grants.

 

About Wikimédia France
Wikimédia France is a charity which supports the Wikimedia projects in France. Wikimedia does not host nor edit Wikipedia: if some members are also Wikipedia contributors, the charity never intervenes in Wikipedia. It is independent from Wikimedia Foundation.

 

Contact :
presse@wikimedia.fr
Christophe Henner : (+33) 06 29 35 65 94
par Conseil d'Administration
Categories: Communiqué de presse, Projets Wikimedia
  1. Nicolas B.
    06/04/2013 à 17:00 | #1

    “Wikimedia France strongly condemns pressured [sic] against a Wikipedia administrator by French homeland intelligence agency (DCRI)”

    OK, great. And what does “Wikimedia France” [false name, by the way] think of the censorship of the article perpetrated the sysop of the french language Wikipedia, sysop who happens to be the president of the association “Wikimédia France” [sic] ?

  2. Nicolas B.
    06/04/2013 à 17:38 | #2

    “Because of the pressure, he had no other choice than deleting the article and warning the other administrators they incured the same treatment if they undelete the article.”

    That is not true. He could perfectly refuse. He did not risk much. France is not China.

    “this vision of brutally regulate the Internet is and will never be neither our vision neither the one shared by the Wikipedia editors”

    Really ? Not even the vision of the president of “Wikimédia France”, sysop on the french language Wikipedia ?

    He censored the article. This is clearly an abuse of his “technical tools”, which are not supposed to be used to do editorial actions, such as this one.

    And he wrote on the french Wikipedia, as only explanation, that the article was contravening to the article 413-11 of the french penal code. Which is not true.

  3. 06/04/2013 à 19:35 | #3

    I don’t see the point about speaking of “the president of Wikimédia France”: it only happens Rémi is _also_ president of Wikimédia France, but it was as a sysop he was contacted by the DCRI, and any other sysop could have beeen summoned.

    About the use of the technical tools, it is perfectly understandable he don’t want to be involved in a long difficult trial, even if he would probably have win it.

  4. Zerb
    06/04/2013 à 20:07 | #4

    Nicolas B. :
    “Because of the pressure, he had no other choice than deleting the article and warning the other administrators they incured the same treatment if they undelete the article.”
    That is not true. He could perfectly refuse. He did not risk much. France is not China.

    France has no habeas corpus. You can be put in a stinking jail at a police station for up to 48 hours for no good reason, and a large minority of Frenchmen have experienced it, many of them just because they pissed off a cop in some way or another. Until last year you didn’t even get a lawyer – the European Court for Human Rights had denounced it but the government – actually, the governmentS – claimed the court only referred to Turkey, until the French constitutional council ruled otherwise. If the DCRI had called the nearest police station and told them to do just that, they would certainly have been obeyed.

    I’d say the perspective of spending 48 hours in jail is pressure. And I don’t think you can blame the admin just because a whole group of experienced and aggressive spooks managed to persuade him wrongly that they had the law with them. Besides, I wasn’t there but I have no trouble believing they could have resorted to violence (I’m not saying they did, but maybe they made it clear they could), given that none of what they did was legal in the first place and police officers – let alone DCRI agents – have near-immunity in France (even more than in other western countries that is).

  5. Nicolas B.
    06/04/2013 à 20:09 | #5

    Let’s be serious. Rémi was not chosen by chance among the dozens of “sysops”. Rémi spends his time trying to promote and defend Wikipedia in the media. Furthermore, the cloudy distinction between “Wikimédia France”, the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedia is not understood outside of the Wikipedia community. This confusion is common even inside the Wikipedia community, the Wikimedia Foundation aliments this confusion.

    About “a long difficult trial”, there would have been no trial at all. All Rémi has done, and should have continued to do, was inaction. He had not written a single line of the article. So he really did not risk much.

    About the courage of resisting to the pressure, I perfectly understand that a person do not want to face government pressure, do not want to face a trial. One can have other priorities in life, OK. But in this case the person must not be “sysop”. If you are a coward, if you intend to obey pressure, then it’s better that you don’t be a “sysop”. Being a “sysop” is volontary, it is not a paid job. It is not an obligation.

  6. 06/04/2013 à 20:20 | #6

    I don’t understand a technical issue pertaining to this matter. If the article is deleted, can’t the deletion be reverted within a few minutes by somebody who DOESN’T have a (figurative) gun held to his or her head?

  7. Seb35
    06/04/2013 à 20:48 | #7

    @Timothy Campbell
    Absolutely, the deletion can be reverted by someone else, and this was effectively done the next day (Friday). So yes, it’s a really nonsense to ask the deletion given this fact.

  8. Zerb
    06/04/2013 à 20:51 | #8

    @Timothy Campbell
    Yes it can. And that’s what happened. But apparently the guys at the DCRI are unable to understand that. This is not the first time they show a total lack on grasp on reality – see how the parisian command abruptly ordered the Toulouse station to stop monitoring Merah’s activities just a few weeks before he committed a series of murders. It took a couple of weeks before the investigators found him again.

  9. Nicolas B.
    06/04/2013 à 21:46 | #9

    @Zerb

    So the guy gave up all his ideals to avoid an illegal garde-à-vue ? Great guy !

  10. Nicolas B.
    06/04/2013 à 22:00 | #10

    @Timothy Campbell

    @Seb35

    @Zerb

    Timothy Campbell :

    I don’t understand a technical issue pertaining to this matter. If the article is deleted, can’t the deletion be reverted within a few minutes by somebody who DOESN’T have a (figurative) gun held to his or her head?

    Yes, any registered user can re-create the article, although to do so you have to face first a frigtening warning. I think the same goes for guest users — contrary to the anglophone Wikipedia where guests cannot anymore (re-)create articles. But, if a user re-creates the article this way, s/he has to start *ex nihilo*, s/he has to write everything, on a white page. S/he does not have any of the past versions of the article.

    *This is not what happened.*

    What happened is that :

    Only “sysops” could see the history of the versions of the “deleted” article. One of them chose a recent version of the article, made a few little changes perhaps, and published the result. Only a “sysop” could do that.

  11. huhh
    07/04/2013 à 00:04 | #11

    Who is this Nicolas B character? What is he trying to achieve? What is his agenda?

    The guy was forced to delete the article, and he did. His action was perfectly justifiable considering the circumstances. Furthermore, he knew the deletion could be undone.

  12. Anonymous coward
    07/04/2013 à 00:10 | #12

    So, has the article been re-instated? If no, why not?

  13. Wesley D
    07/04/2013 à 00:57 | #13

    Finally, a French military victory. :-)

  14. Nicolas B.
    07/04/2013 à 01:40 | #14

    huhh :

    The guy was forced to delete the article, and he did.

    Not forced. Certainly not.

    Who is this “huhh” ?

  15. 07/04/2013 à 02:01 | #15

    Actually, I would like to remember that the president of Wikimedia Italy is involved in a similar manner in a case she had nothing to do with, and _is currently being sued_ and if she loses she owes something like 20 million euros. Just to says that yes, there are already people whose life is being at least disturbed just because they are prominent in the wikimedia world, and whoever thinks he can do better, can surely give Dcri his contacts and prove his theories.

  16. Nemo
    07/04/2013 à 02:57 | #16

    Nicolas B. :
    Only “sysops” could see the history of the versions of the “deleted” article. One of them chose a recent version of the article, made a few little changes perhaps, and published the result. Only a “sysop” could do that.

    Or rather, he restored/undeleted it.

    Nicolas, he may not have been technically “forced”, but what the sysop did is of minor importance, because it was reverted quickly (and was probably expected to). It’s objectively more relevant what the DCRI did, and it’s correct to focus on that: as Elitre remembers, Frieda was similarly not “forced” to do anything, but still 20 M€ lawsuits pending on your personal property are not a nice thing; and she even let another sysop act on the page in question, later resigning sysop status…

  17. Torsten
    07/04/2013 à 09:47 | #17

    @elitre

    Can you publish a link with more information on this matter?

  18. Nemo
    07/04/2013 à 13:18 | #18
  19. Fr.
    07/04/2013 à 13:32 | #19

    @Nicolas B. , you seem to know an awful lot about how the DCRI works (“Not forced. Certainly not.”). Or perhaps you are just talking out of thin air when you say that Rémi Mathis “did not risk much”, with no real knowledge of the actual threats that the DCRI can actually issue and enforce against an individual who refuses to cooperate in a suspected breach of “secret défense”.

    Instead of unnecessary hyperbole about “France [not being] China,” please help yourself and everyone here: go read a bit about “secret défense” in French law and jurisprudence before you state again that he “did not risk much.”

  20. S.H.
    07/04/2013 à 16:58 | #20

    Hi,

    Can you please mask my name in the previous post and delete my previous request. Maybe make it S.H. If that’s not possible please remove it and I can resubmit it with a shorter name.

    Thanks,
    Stefanos

  21. huhh
    07/04/2013 à 19:05 | #21

    Nicolas B claims: “Not forced. Certainly not.”

    What on earth are you trying to say? He would be thrown in jail if he didn’t comply. He was basically threatened (it is extremely threatening to be picked up by a bunch of strangers in uniform who demand that you do things for them).

    Quit playing your silly games. You know he was forced and threatened.

  22. Nicolas B.
    08/04/2013 à 00:07 | #22

    Nemo :

    Nicolas, he may not have been technically “forced”, but what the sysop did is of minor importance, because it was reverted quickly (and was probably expected to).

    What the DCRI did is not brilliant, but it does not surprise me. Trying to censor, by all sort of means, is what intelligence agencies have always done all over the world.

    What the “sysop” did shocks me much more. He censored Wikipedia by (ab)using wrongly his “sysop” tools. This is despicable. Especially from a guy who is the president of the association “Wikimédia [sic] France” and who spends his time preaching the words “free” and “open”, and asking for donations, and receiving donations for Wikipedia.

    huhh :

    Nicolas B claims: “Not forced. Certainly not.”

    What on earth are you trying to say? He would be thrown in jail if he didn’t comply. He was basically threatened (it is extremely threatening to be picked up by a bunch of strangers in uniform who demand that you do things for them).

    Yes, in jail. And beaten, and tortured. And sued. Sure. Don’t be ridiculous. In some countries, people really endure that, and you should make the difference.

    When a threatening policeman tells you to do a thing that you are not obliged to do, in France, what can you do ? Well, you can simply say “no”. That’s what dozens of militants do every day.

    To be precise, Rémi Mathis was not “picked up” by the DCRI agents. He went to the DCRI, being free. And he remained free. He was not detained.

    huhh :

    Nicolas B claims: “Not forced. Certainly not.”

    You know he was forced and threatened.

    Threatened, yes. Forced, no.

    The facts are stubborn :-) , as Lenin says.

  23. zerb
    08/04/2013 à 12:51 | #23

    The facts are stubborn :-) , as Lenin says.

    Well there’s one fact you’ve been forgetting the whole time : based on his later comments he was actually convinced the offending article was illegal. It is perfectly normal for wikipedia to delete illegal content.

    So let’s recapitulate : an admin, after having been convinced (wrongly) by law enforcement officers that an article was unlawful, and under pressure from said officers, including at least the threat of two unchallengeable days in jail and a lawsuit, agreed to remove said article knowing that it was pointless but seeing he couldn’t convince the officers of that.

    Nicolas B. :
    So the guy gave up all his ideals to avoid an illegal garde-à-vue ? Great guy !

    First, a garde-à-vue cannot be illegal unless they beat you to death. All what is needed to put someone in jail is a “suspicion” and that “the investigation requires it”, which is entirely left to the police’s judgment. As I said, it is by no means challengeable.
    Second, I honestly don’t see what ideals he gave up by not following the normal procedure for the deletion of unlawful (he was convinced of it) content, knowing that it was pointless and under pressure. Granted, this might have not been the most valiant thing to do, but it is easy for you to criticize while you’re sitting at your desk, and I’m pretty sure I would have done the same. Spending 48 hours in jail for refusing to do something you knew was pointless and you thought was founded because you want to respect the rules of some website is maybe very brave but also completely stupid in my opinion.

  24. Roger
    08/04/2013 à 14:01 | #24

    So he gave up pretty easily, knowing the article could be undeleted the next day. I would do the same. Why waist time with principles when the pragmatic approach is much easier and nothing is lost?

  25. Nicolas B.
    08/04/2013 à 14:53 | #25

    zerb :

    First, a garde-à-vue cannot be illegal unless they beat you to death.

    Oh yes, it can be. It has happened often recently. Good lawyers have been able to have the procedure invalidated, and their client freed, because of an illegal garde-à-vue.

  26. Nicolas B.
    08/04/2013 à 15:19 | #26

    zerb :

    Well there’s one fact you’ve been forgetting the whole time : based on his later comments he was actually convinced the offending article was illegal. It is perfectly normal for wikipedia to delete illegal content.

    No. It is not Wikipedia policy. Otherwise thousands of pages of Wikipedia would be deleted. About the Tian-an-Men place massacre, about Tibet, about the Dalaï-Lama, about marijuana…

    Read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:NOTCENSORED .

    Don’t forget the word ”free” in “the free encyclopedia”.

    In this story, you are yet one more proof that way too many people are sheep who tremble as soon as the word ”illegal” is pronounced.

    There is not one sacred thing called “the Law”. There are many laws, in many countries. Many of them are good laws, many of them are bad laws, many of them are absurd laws. Sometimes you and me do illegal things.

    Blindly obeying the law is a very bad idea in life, and happily is it not the policy of Wikipedia. This is one the reasons of the success of Wikipedia.

  27. zerb
    08/04/2013 à 15:26 | #27

    Nicolas B. :
    Oh yes, it can be. It has happened often recently. Good lawyers have been able to have the procedure invalidated, and their client freed, because of an illegal garde-à-vue.

    Not often. A couple of times (not counting all the ones that were invalidated in 2011 because of the constitutional council’s decision). And there are between 500,000 and 1,000,000 gardes-à-vue a year, and I really doubt all of those investigations “require” that the suspect be jailed. It is de facto impossible to get out of a lawsuit because of an unfounded garde-à-vue.

    Anyway, whether it can be challenged afterwards or not doesn’t change anything to the fact that it is impossible to interrupt it and to my point that it is a threat serious enough to justify breaching some rule if you know it will have no consequence.

  28. Nicolas B.
    08/04/2013 à 15:48 | #28

    * This is one of the reasons of the success of Wikipedia.

  29. zerb
    08/04/2013 à 16:17 | #29

    “The Wikimedia Foundation has often collaborated with public authorities to follow legal decisions. It receives hundreds of requests every year asking for the deletion of articles, and always complies with clearly motivated requests.”
    I took that from the text just above. This is, again, a stubborn fact. Complying with the law in a general way doesn’t mean you think it is always right, nor does the illegitimacy of part of the law justifies your not complying with the rest of it.

    But then since you seem to like to consider you’re the only capable thinker in the world, I think I’ll get back to being a sheep and “trembling as soon as the word illegal is pronounced”.

    (Also, I thought that France was not China, but then your examples seem to imply French law isn’t any more legitimate than Chinese law – except for the example of marijuana which is just plainly stupid: why would an article about marijuana be illegal?)

  30. 08/04/2013 à 19:05 | #30

    Hello,
    whatever justified the reasons of the DCRI might be, everyone in a range from Clermont-Ferrand to Saint-Etienne knows, without having to consult Wikipedia, that there has been for long a military transmission center upon the «Monts du Forez» at the «Pierre-sur-Haute» summit.
    And a scope stretching over two French departments (Puy-de-Dôme + Loire), that means a lot of people involved!
    So, this is no real secret…
    I bet fewer know there is also a civil transmission center coupled with an ATC SSR in the enclosure.
    And even fewer might know there is a bush/mountain landing strip in the vicinity where I landed many times in the past just for fun.
    This strip is called « Col du Béal », LID « LF4221 »

    Regards,
    Jean-Pierre Contal,
    Aéro-club de Valloire, France,
    retired ATCO.

  31. Nicolas B.
    08/04/2013 à 23:22 | #31

    zerb :

    I took that from the text just above.

    But “the text just above” is… the statement by the association “Wikimédia [sic] France” ! It is precisely the text I contest. It has not much credibility. It already contains one big lie, that I have contested.

    Regarding marijuana, France has a (in)famous law which forbids presenting hemp “in a favourable light”. This goes very far. Any sentence on Wikipedia saying that cannabis has a positive effect on patients who have this or that illness — which is true, and published in medical journals, by the way — would breach this law. The same goes for any sentence saying that hemp makes decorative flowers. The same goes for a sentence saying that sailors in Marseille used hemp to make solid ropes and sails for boats — hence the name “la Canebière”. The law punished that with 5 years of imprisonment and 75000 euros of fine.

  32. Nicolas B.
    08/04/2013 à 23:27 | #32

    * The law punishes that with 5 years of imprisonment and 75000 euros of fine.

  33. Seb35
    09/04/2013 à 08:39 | #33

    @Nicolas B.
    About the citation Wikimédia France reported what the Wikimedia Foundation said; see https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Legal_and_Community_Advocacy/Statement_on_France

  34. Nicolas B.
    09/04/2013 à 19:35 | #34

    @Seb35

    I know this statement from the lawyer of the Wikimedia Foundation. And I did not see anything in it saying what “Wikimédia France” says.

    Actually, it says the opposite :

    “we require more information before we will consider removing any content — to do otherwise would allow censorship to trump free expression, which would be a direct assault on the values of the Wikimedia community”

    This principle is much nicer than blindly replying “Sir, yes, Sir !” to any request containing the word “illegal”.

  35. Judith
    13/04/2013 à 10:31 | #35

    I think that in order to discourage this kind of government censorship, every newspaper article on this event should include a link to the Wikipedia article in question. The net result will be a much larger dissemination of this information than it would have had otherwise.
    This is the one: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Station_hertzienne_militaire_de_Pierre_sur_Haute

  36. Bernard
    13/04/2013 à 11:49 | #36

    @Nicolas B.

    Is the solution to this kind of threat by government administration could be the way Amnesty International (AI) work?

    National issues are addressed only by foreign groups never by the group of AI belonging to same state.

  37. Bernard
    13/04/2013 à 11:50 | #37

    Is the solution to this kind of threat by government administration could be the way Amnesty International (AI) work?

    National issues are addressed only by foreign groups never by the group of AI belonging to same state.

  38. huhh
    21/04/2013 à 11:41 | #38

    Nicolas B is obviously a couch warrior who has never had to deal with threats and accusations from police, military or other such authority figures.

    It’s so easy for a couch warrior to go “but you were right all along and they couldn’t do anything” when the fact is that authority figures CAN in fact do a lof of things even if they are not legally allowed to. They can, in fact, imprison you and make up bullshit charges just to make your life miserable.

    It’s pathetic that a couch warrior with no real life experience wants to tell others what to do.

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