The left-winged politician Lutz Heilmann has sued the German Wikipedia branch and has obtained an interim order that prohibits "Wikipedia Deutschland e. V." from forwarding the domain wikipedia.de
which is under US jurisdiction. Apparently the Wikipedia article on Lutz Heilmann
contains some statements (
I assume regarding his involvement with the GDR secret police "Stasi"
As it turns out, the lawsuit has nothing to do with his involvement with the "Stasi". It is about an incident where he allegly sent threats to an acquaintance via SMS.) that he deems slanderous.
Mr. Heilmann really wasn't involved with the "Stasi" and if
his Wikipedia article in fact contains slanderous remarks, then he has every reason to be mad, but suing Wikipedia is probably the worst thing he could have done. For one, the article wasn't written by a single individual but by a whole bunch of people who seem to agree that the information given in the article is factual and well-founded. In a sense, Wikipedia represents the voice of the masses and Mr. Heilmann as member of a left-winged party should know better than to just censor it. He could have started an open discourse, clarified things, heck he could have sent a letter to the Wikipedia foundation asking them to freeze the page until the issue is resolved. Instead he chose to sue a non-profit organisation that gives millions of people access to vast amounts of information. Secondly, as Wikipedia is an organisation that is well-regarded by the public, the whole incident is bound to create a stir and a good amount of negative publicity. Also, I suspect that since the notice that appears on wikipedia.de mentions Heilmann's name, more people are now going to look him up... on Wikipedia... and be exposed to the "slanderous" remarks about him.
While the whole thing may not end up having the effect that Heilmann is hoping for, it shows how easily the Web can be censored. Sure, the article on Heilmann
is still available through the US domain, but the average "Hans Six-pack" may not know that. This is pretty scary, considering how imporant the Web has become as a source of unfiltered information.