French spy agency forced Wikipedia volunteer to delete entry

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A French intelligence agency forced a volunteer for online open-source reference site Wikipedia to delete n entry that allegedly contained classified information about French nuclear defense systems. According to the Wikimedia Foundation, which publishes Wikipedia, the entry describes a radio relay system located at Pierre-sur-Haute military radio station in south-central France. Operated by the French Air Force, the station is said to have a central role in transmitting the order to launch France’s nuclear missiles in case of a full-scale thermonuclear war. The French-language Wikipedia webpage —which has since been fully restored— mentions, among other things, that the radio masts at Pierre-sur-Haute are designed to withstand the type of shockwave experienced in a thermonuclear attack. According to the Wikimedia Foundation, it was approached in early March, 2013, by the Direction Central du Renseignement Interieur (DCRI), which is tasked with domestic security and counterintelligence. The agency asked the Wikimedia Foundation to delete the entire webpage referring to the Pierre-sur-Haute military radio station, because it said it contravened French national security law. The Wikimedia Foundation, however, refused to comply with the request unless it was accompanied with either a court order or concrete information explaining why the Pierre-sur-Haute revelations were a threat to French national security. The DCRI reportedly backed down, promising to return with a formal justification for its request. However, instead of doing so, it contacted a French-based Wikipedia volunteer, who was summoned to the DCRI’s office under threat of legal action. The volunteer, who had no connection to the relay radio station entry, was allegedly told that he would be detained and prosecuted if he refused to use his administrator rights to delete the Wikipedia entry. The volunteer eventually chose to comply with the DCRI’s directives and promptly deleted the webpage. However, he reported his action to an online forum consulted by Wikipedia’s French-language editors, warning that restoring the webpage would risk contravening French national secrets legislation. As the case became more widely discussed, however, it backfired on the DCRI and the French government alike. A Swiss Wikipedia volunteer chose to reinstate the webpage, while the media interest in it prompted the appearance of an English-language translation, which drastically increased its international visibility. On Monday it was reported that the page on Pierre-sur-Haute scored the highest number of visitors than any other French-language webpage anywhere in the world. Wikipedia told United Press International that it “always operated within the law and ha[d] no desire to pose a threat to individuals or nations”. Meanwhile the French government has refused comment on the story.


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