Wikipedia shuts Italian site as parliament debates censorship law

Wikipedia has shut down its Italian site, in protest at the proposed introduction of a law forcing websites to remove any posts that their subject deems upsetting.

Under the proposal – currently under discussion by the Italian Parliament – anybody objecting to the content of a website would have the right to demand that it be taken down within 48 hours, and without any comment.

There’s no requirement that the request be evaluated by any third party, such as a judge.

“Hence, anyone who feels offended by any content published on a blog, an online newspaper and, most likely, even on Wikipedia can directly request to publish a ‘corrected’ version, aimed to contradict and disprove the allegedly harmful contents, regardless of the truthfulness of the information deemed as offensive, and its sources,” says the Wikipedia team.

“The obligation to publish on our site the correction as is, provided by the named paragraph 29, without even the right to discuss and verify the claim, is an unacceptable restriction of the freedom and independence of Wikipedia.”

The stipulation forms part of the country’s proposed Wiretapping Act, which has the support of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. He says it’s about defending privacy; critics say it’s about protecting him personally.

Last month, magistrates investigating an alleged prostitution ring  published wiretaps in which Berlusconi boasted of sleeping with eight women in one night, and complained that meetings with the Pope were interfering with his partying.