Opinion: Free Speech and the Internet

To appreciate the full bouquet of challenges that the Internet is posing to the modern nation state, look no further than the case of two German men who are waging a legal battle against the U.S.-based Wikimedia Foundation — the charity behind the online encyclopedia — for violating their rights to privacy. In 1990 the two men killed a German actor, were sentenced to life in prison in 1993, and were released on parole a few years ago. The German law allows them to start afresh; the media has been barred from mentioning their full names in relation to the crime.The German-language Wikipedia complied and removed their full names from its entries. The English-language Wikipedians, after producing more than 60 pages of arguments, persevered. Stopp & Stopp, the improbably named law firm representing the two men, duly filed lawsuits against the Wikimedia Foundation in German courts, which prompted accusations of censorship from the likes of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, a free-speech group.This article was contributed by Evgeny Morozov, a Yahoo fellow at Georgetown University and a contributing editor to Foreign Policy. His book on Internet democracy will be published in 2010.

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