The Wikimedia Foundation issued a press release a few days ago reporting that it had taken down part of Wikipedia article’s revision history after a German court ordered it to do so.
Three months ago, a German court ruled that part of a Wikipedia article—found to be defamatory in a previous court decision—had to be removed from both the article and its associated revision tracker, known as a “history” page.
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The ruling stems from a previous lawsuit against the Foundation, originally filed in mid-2018. It asserted that a Wikipedia article’s claim about an academic professor was untrue and defamatory, even though it was backed by a citation to a reliable source.
A German court ruled in September of last year that the content was in fact defamatory, largely because the source in question had been taken offline—what we call “link rot.” German volunteers quickly removed the text in question from the article but the article’s corresponding history page retained the statements. This is a common practice on Wikimedia projects.
the anti-Wikpedia site The Wiki Cabal, the case involves a German-born professor whose work on computerized speech recognition and translation was allegedly funded by the United States and used by the National Security Agency as part of its illegal mass data collection.
Claims to that effect appeared in German newspapers, which Wikipedia then summarized and cited in its article on the researcher. The newspapers later withdrew their claims under legal threat and Wikipedia removed the claims, but Wikipedia did not remove the old revisions of the article that still contained the information.
Some folks online have pointed out that the professor’s name appears on slide presentations and as a co-author on papers related to his speech recognition software being used by US troops in Iraq, as well as the fact that the professor has openly served as an adviser with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
But those are a long way from being funded by and collaborating directly with the National Security Agency on its various data collection efforts.