German Wikipedia Shut Down After Legal Action by Member of Parliament

By: daniel oppermann on 19 November 2008
wiki deutschland.png

Within a few days German member of parliament Lutz Heilmann (The Left – Die Linke) became famous in a way he probably had not expected. On Thursday, November 13, he successfully closed down, the website of Wikipedia Germany which forwards inquiries directly to the German-written pages of Wikipedia, hosted on a server in the USA. On the 15th and 16th anyone trying to access Wikipedia via this website just saw a white screen containing a text informing about Heilmann's legal action and the restraining order he used against Wikipedia Germany. Nevertheless, using search machines or still offered users access to the American server.

Heilmann's motivation to go against Wikipedia was based on some problems he had concerning the content of his Wikipedia page. According to him it contained wrong information about himself which he considered as being against his personal honour and hurting his personal rights. Although he did not offer closer information about this passages two days later the whole country was able to read about them. Apart from some facts about his personal life one could find out about an alleged threat he recently articulated against a second person (which Heilmann contested in a counterstatement). Furthermore the public got aware (once more) about his past life working for the Ministry of State Security (MfS) of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1985 to 1990. While working for the MfS is already seen as a highly critical aspect in a person's life and career in Germany, Heilmann represents a special case, as he was the the first former member of the MfS who became a member of parliament (Bundestag). And at that point he still maintained silence about this part of his life when he was working as a personal body guard for the MfS, until the German magazine Der Spiegel found out about it in October 1995. Since his party The Left is considered to be the follow-up of the SED (ruling party of the GDR) they have quite a high number of former functionaries of the GDR which from time to time puts a dark light on their reputation. For this reason not only the public but also his own party criticized his legal action against Wikipedia which by at least a part of the popoulation was seen as an act of (attempted) censorship. On Sunday the 16th Heilmann withdrew his legal measures and on Monday was back online.

The result of this wiki-weekend is quite a high temporary increase of donations for Wikipedia in Germany. Also, a member of parliament who has once again made bad PR for himself and his party and furthermore finds all the unwanted information about him in mostly all relevant newspapers in the country.
Daniel Oppermann

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