Wikipedia downs Italian site over Bungasconi censorship plot

Wikipedia has warned the Italian government against a law that will allow greater press censorship, taking the dramatic move to block the whole country from its pages.

It appears that Berlusconi’s regime is taking an increasingly hardline approach to censoring the web, with a proposed new law that requires websites to publish “corrections” within 48 hours.

Of course, Berlusconi has a stake in much of Italy’s press so he won’t have to worry about correcting that – but who defines what is “correct” is often the authority.

If a website doesn’t comply, it’s liable to get a €12,000 (US$16,000) fine.  What is rather shocking about the proposed law is that there is no need to get a third party to adjudicate on whether or not the applicant is correct.

This means that an anonymous person who wants to remove some nasty stuff about bunga bunga parties from the web would be left with no choice other than to comply.

Not surprisingly, the Wikipedia community is up in arms.  The online encyclopedia and undergraduate’s best friend issued a statement on the Italian page (available in English here) stating that the website is currently only hidden – but it will be deleted if the law is passed.

As it stands, the law means any party which felt that its reputation had been damaged could contact a news site, blog or even take issue with a Wiki entry and demands its correction.

While there have been many cases where erroneous information has found its way onto Wikipedia, it is usually swiftly weeded out by pedantic editors.

It seems then, that Berlusconi is paying homage to Benito Mussolini, by keeping up the old tradition of a tight reign on any press freedoms.  In fact, like most things, there is a whole Wiki entry devoted to the subject.

A separate campaign has been set up to fight the bill and to stop Wikipedia from deleting its Italian site.