Israeli Wikipedia and Bloggers under legal threats

[Originally Published in Hebrew in a different version, Please help by Digging this Article]

A Letter arrived to Wikimedia-Israel’s Offices, signed by a person who presented himself as Adv. Amir Shemesh, [representing – jk] Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, my knowledge of the hebrew language did not allow me to comprehend the entire contents of the letter, but to the best of my understanding, the sentence: “My office will fight this phenomenon as instructed by my client if the article will not be removed or edited in a manner which will not harm the Rabbi”. and as a person’s will is his honor, I removed the article “Amnon Yitzhak and his conversation article from Wikipedia, and the public shall be satisfied by this information ()

The Hebrew Branch of Wikipaedia (or Wikipedia) was threatened that if the article describing a specific Rabbi will not be amended, legal proceedings shall be taken; This week has been a grave week for Freedom of Expression anyway as a blogger was threatened as well that if he will not remove a user generated comment, legal proceedings will follow [decent disclosure, I represent the blogger in this case]; The conclusion was quite simple, More and more small websites, blogs and non-profit operations are being threatened out of their freedom. The mean? using lawyers and threats of slander and defamation lawsuits. It was quite obvious that one day some aristocrat will be highly insulted from these chatters on blogs or wikipaedia and decide to pay his lawyers a few dollars in order to issue a letter ( (See also an enlightened though by Jordan Lewinsky)

The honorable Rabbi’s request is no different than millions of requests from people who try to avoid negative feedback on the net. Of course, Wikipaedia is facing this problem differently : It’s quite complicated to explain, but it’s hard to understand how a court would find Wikipaedia liable in spite the recent legislation attempts by Israel Hason (and see Yuval Dror‘s opinion). Wikipaedia is unique in a way where not only a greater public benefit exists from its operation, but every amendment is documented and logged in a way where any alleged defamator could be found, but even his IP address is visible to the public. Yitzhak’s threats were merely an apparatus of censorship where he could have initiated legal proceedings against the original writers, were there any defamatory statements.

Wikipaedia’s greatest achievement is that it is both a Free and an encyclopaedia. And the Wikipaedians were coerced into amending a article, therefore preventing their freedom, as stated by David Shay, chief Israeli Wikipaedian: “Wikipaedia is a free encyclopaedia, and negotiating [a article’s content] under legal threats redefines “Freedom”.“. Wikipaedians chatted about further possibilities of takedown notices and abuse of power, but the conversation’s result remained obvious, Wikipaedia cannot remain free when lawyers learn this simple tactic: have a letter ready, clear your clients history, have new possibilities to redefine truth.

A lawsuit against Wikipaedia (without any regards to venue or jurisdiction) will cause editors to refrain from editing, as editing may hold them liable for statements. Therefore, an encyclopaedia of non-truths will occur; giving only voice to those who have the means to stands financially behind their words.

This is a harsh worlds, the eminent result of any legislation forcing liability on service providers will incur a great expense on expression, causing the democratisation of the web to cease from existence. We need financing for our works here, we need more than this; We need to change the government from the bottom to the top. The Israeli law is drafted in a mean where the strong survive and the weak cannot deal with their actions. Even pro-consumer legislation in Israel is drafted in a way where the strong thrive. Acts like the Anti-Defamation Act and Censorship acts are just the tip of the iceberg since most of us cannot afford a spokesperson and a lawyer to go and campaign against every wrongsay on the net

Newspapers have this privilege, political activists and missionaries have this privilege. A citizen has the net, the same technological and democratic mean which is ideologically neutral and enables a person to get his stage. People started to cooperate and create, wrote content, shared content, and the old structure understood it is about to collapse. The old structure rose today, and fought back. I’m not just talking about Israel Hason and other people, I’m talking about a big structure, which is built in a way where elected persons go through a dedicated route. The recent shaming of people which were not recruited by the army, for example, is a futile attempt of the military elite to prevent a non-militant elite in Israel.

Don’t let the legislators take your power, do something.

Thanks, Amir E. Aharoni

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