wasting bandwidth since 1999

Censoring History Won’t Work

Another interesting example of how attempting to filter information coming from the web doesn’t work all that well.

This situation has to do with a man who was convicted of murdering a well-known actor in Germany and is now out on parole, and who now wants Wikipedia to remove all mentions of his name from the article about the actor.

At issue is an apparent conflict between the U.S. First Amendment–which protects truthful speech–and German law–which seeks to protect the name and likenesses of private persons from unwanted publicity. Sedlmayr’s murderer became a public figure when he and his accomplice were tried for brutally killing the well-known actor, and contemporary newspapers published his identity at that time. Fifteen years later, according to his attorneys, German law views the killer as a private citizen again. So, his lawyers have sued the German language Wikipedia, and threatened the English language version with the same, if they fail to censor the Sedlmayr article.

This “private citizen” and his lawyers, and German law for that matter, don’t understand that a “world wide” web makes it pretty much impossible to completely insulate any country (or individual) from information they don’t like.

However, that’s also true for schools where we put a lot of effort into selectively censoring the flow, trying hard to control what information enters the classroom.

But we keep trying.

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3 Comments

  1. Wow.

    I hesitate to even imagine the software that would be necessary to check the ip address of every visitor to the English wikipedia, to determine if it were coming from the EU, Asia, or the US, or the British commonwealth, and then providing you with access to the ‘correct’ article with appropriately censored information.

  2. Dave

    All you need to know is “Streisand Effect”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect

  3. As mentioned, it’s called the “World Wide Web” for a reason. If in Germany, their laws prevent this, then ok, but to try to censor the English version of Wikipedia, wow, they really are aiming high in their demands.

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