First Google censors China, now Wikipedia censors Congress

Google’s recent announcement that it will comply with China’s demand for Google’s search results to be censored for users within China was only the beginning. Now, Wikipdedia is blocking edits to its pages from the entire range of IP addresses that belong to the U.S. Congress.

Wikipedia editing has been in the news lately, ever since the entry for the John F. Kennedy assassination was edited to falsely accuse John Seigenthaler, former administrative assistant to Kennedy, as a suspect in the assassination. Another lesser known incident (outside of the podcasting community, that is) was when the editing of the entry on podcasting was traced back to Adam Curry. Adam gives his side of the story, plus his history of podcasting, in this edition of the Daily Source Code. Now, it has come to Wikipedia’s attention that wanton editing without regard to its normal editing policies has been coming from Congress. Bios of both Senators and Representatives have been massively edited both by their own staffers and by opponents for political gain. As a result, Wikipedia is blocking anyone from using a computer with an IP address in the range of those assigned to Congress from doing any editing.

Wikipedia wants to be considered an authority, but at the same time it allows anyone to edit. Their recent response to the Kennedy debacle was to require users to register before creating a new entry, but still anyone can edit.

Section 230 of the Common Carrier communications regulations is entitled “Protection for private blocking and screening of offensive material.” The intent of Section 230 is to provide immunity for most causes of action for the provider of an “interactive computer service” in which the provider is acting as a “publisher” or “speaker.” Section 230(e)(2) specifically exempts IP law from the effects of this section. Primarily, this section covers torts where the accused is the publisher, like defamation, libel, and slander. Section 230 provides protection for Wikipedia and other internet service providers from liability for what is posted on the site provided it complies with the terms of the section. However, I argue that the authors of Section 230 never intended the law to apply to an entity like Wikipedia that acts like an ISP by claiming its users are the authors and Wikipedia merely hosts, but yet at the same time acts as a publisher by claiming the whole site, the aggregation of all the entries, is reliable enough to be considered an authoritative source of information. It’s got to be one or the other in my opinion, but the law as written allows Wikipedia to claim both.

Perhaps Wikipedia’s blocking action will cause Congress now to revisit the law Wikipedia relies on…

EDITED TO ADD: Funny, Wonkette is calling for Congressional staffers to send the juicy tidbits to them instead of trying to edit a wiki. Cute.

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