NSA Spies on Wikipedia Users. Now It's Lawsuit Time.

Wikimedia joins with the ACLU to sue the pants off the feds for violating the privacy and free speech rights of encyclopedia users and editors.


Wikimedia and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stepped up today to defend online privacy, with a lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA) on First and Fourth Amendment grounds. A previous version of the suit, by Amnesty International, was rejected by the Supreme Court due to lack of appropriate standing to sue.


In a New York Times op-ed today, Wikipedia founder (and Reason cover boy) Jimmy Wales, along with co-author Lila Tretikov, explains the harm that government spying is causing his brainchild.

Perhaps your mental picture of a Wikipedian is some dude in a basement obsessively refreshing the George R.R. Martin entry to make sure the Game of Thrones author is still breathing, in between updating pages in the Wiki of Ice and Fire to reflect the LS+RT=JS theory. Well, that guy definitely exists (and he's performing a valuable service, in my opinion). I'm not sure he'd be deterred by revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden that the government specifically targeted Wikipedia in its online surveillance.

But what about these editors?:

During the 2011 Arab uprisings, Wikipedia users collaborated to create articles that helped educate the world about what was happening. Continuing cooperation between American and Egyptian intelligence services is well established; the director of Egypt's main spy agency under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi boasted in 2013 that he was "in constant contact" with the Central Intelligence Agency.

So imagine, now, a Wikipedia user in Egypt who wants to edit a page about government opposition or discuss it with fellow editors. If that user knows the N.S.A. is routinely combing through her contributions to Wikipedia, and possibly sharing information with her government, she will surely be less likely to add her knowledge or have that conversation, for fear of reprisal.

Multiply that by 500 million users, nearly all of whom have something to hide—even if it's just an unhealthy obsession with Daenerys Targaryen—and watch the chilling effect set in:

And then imagine this decision playing out in the minds of thousands of would-be contributors in other countries. That represents a loss for everyone who uses Wikipedia and the Internet—not just fellow editors, but hundreds of millions of readers in the United States and around the world.

The online encyclopedia we all rely on for, let's face it, pretty much 100 percent of our information about everything, is being steadily, quietly, inexorably made worse by government spying. That's reason enough to shut the whole program down. (And if that doesn't convince you, the contents of this issue might.)

Pissed off that the NSA is messing with your Wikipedia? Here, let this Remy slow jam calm you down: 

Oh, that didn't help? How about the trailer for the new season of Game of Thrones?

NEXT: Jail Allegedly Told Inmate: Throw Your Severed Finger in the Garbage

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  1. I have this vague recollection that the NSA was legally forbidden to spy on U.S. citizens except in rare and specific circumstances. Maybe that was just a dream.

    1. specific circumstances

      They collect data for specified circumstances in the future.

      1. Well, there you go. All legal. I don’t get what the fuss is about.

        1. What ProL said. Sheesh – you people are so fucking paranoid. Ima start calling you ALL “Jesse”.

          1. You people? You people? Sir, I will not tolerate any racism on board this plane thread. This is a difficult time for our country.

    2. I remember back when the US intelligence agencies were separated into foreign and domestic because certain techniques were permissible when spying of furriners that were not permissible to be used on US citizens. Something about a 100 year old document and slave owners.

      But that was back before we lived in a “post 911 world.”

      Thank god GWB and BHO have saved us from the terrorists and our own shortsightedness.

      1. Yeah, that wall was built following Nixon’s use of spies on domestic political opponents.

        It used to be common sense that you don’t treat domestic “threats” as if they’re foreign adversaries. But, like you said, 9/11 changed everything…

        1. The nsa was doing this well before 911.

          1. Maybe. But if they were, they sure as shit weren’t claiming legal authority to.

  2. Katherine Mangu-Ward
    From Wikipedia:
    Katherine Mangu-Ward is an American journalist. She serves as managing editor of the libertarian magazine Reason.[1] Her writing frequently focuses on food, technology, and education policy. She holds a degree in political science and philosophy from Yale University. Mangu-Ward began her career as a reporter for The Weekly Standard magazine. She also served as a researcher at The New York Times op-ed page. In 2005 she was named a Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow.[2] She is a Future Tense fellow at New America Foundation[3]

    Nothing new since December 2014.

      1. Update it.

  3. The online encyclopedia we all rely on for, let’s face it, pretty much 100 percent of our information about everything

    Yeah…umm, no.

    Sorry, Katie Mango.

    1. It’s split about equally between Wikipedia and the couple preview lines for the first several Google hits.

      1. For biology, xHamster is a primary source nowadays.

        1. What is Hit & Run, chopped liver?

          1. Nutsack stressor.

    1. (Also probably the third person present tense of the verb spy.)

      1. Fixed.

        1. Alright, there’s something new for your wikipedia entry too!

  4. The LS=RT=JS theory is blindingly obvious on a close (or even not very close) reading of the text.

    For one thing, the phrase “bed of blood” is repeatedly used to describe childbirth in the books, and Ned Stark specifically recalls Lyanna lying in her “bloody bed” just before her death. Unless you are extremely dense that makes it abundantly clear that Lyanna died in childbirth, which raises the obvious question: What happened to the child?.

      1. Well, yes, it is so obvious that I expect Martin to inject some sort of plot twist.

        Although it would be rather elegant to have Jon Snow turn out to be the prophesied warrior, and have him hook up with Daenerys later.

        Another theory I have is that the conditions of Daenerys getting pregnant again will be met. The witch didn’t actually say she wouldn’t get pregnant she said she wouldn’t get pregnant “until the sun rises in the west … etc” So theoretically that wasn’t a curse but a prophecy.

        1. She has a mode of flight and the sun does no actual rising… so maybe something about returning to Westeros at dusk.

          1. There’s a theory that Quentyn Martell is supposed to represent the “Sun”. The Sun being the symbol of house Martell.

        2. Well, yes, it is so obvious that I expect Martin to inject some sort of plot twist.

          A plot twist here would just be cheesy. It’s SUCH an obviously perfect spot for a plot twist that if he does it, it will just look sad.

    1. Seems rather moot, after .

      1. There just happens to be a person around who belongs to a certain religious order ….

        1. Very true, but it’s such an obvious out I’m expecting a curveball on that, too.

  5. So the NSA knows I looked up Adam Baldwin, “Dr. Stranglove”, Ford Thunderbird and…some other movie this weekend.

    Knock yourselves out, assholes.

  6. BTW — isn’t it LS + RT = JS? (That is a + signed between LS and RT, not an = sign)

    And it is fairly obvious. So expect Martin to throw a curve ball on it. If he ever finishes the damn book series that is.

    1. Also fixed.

    2. Stop reading the books! All you literate types are ruining it for the rest of us!

      1. In fairness, Martin has said that some characters killed in the books will survive this season and some who survive in the books will be killed. So at this point it is pointless to rely on the books, unless that is what he wants us to think.

        Of course if Martin was a libertarian (which he is most definitely not) he would make JS the love child of Robert Heinlein and Ayn Rand

    3. Well, I like Jon Snow. So I expect Martin to kill him in an undignified and humiliating way.

      1. Hey now. Unlikable characters die in undignified ways too, like Tywin Lannister on the toilet.

        1. The Hound, no? Or maybe he was given a face-lift for the show.

    4. The people who only watch the show are going to be so confused since all the clues about Jon’s parentage are from the book.

      It’s basically going to come out of nowhere with absolutely no foreshadowing in the T.V. show, assuming the theory is true.


        I should probably reread the last few books before Martin publishes again, but something tells me I have time.

    5. What’s LSMFT, chopped liver?

  7. The real question is whether the NSA knows who is John Snow’s mother.

  8. Uh, it’s R+L=J. No one calls it LS=RT=JS. Stop complicating things.

  9. What is the NSA doing here, exactly? Controversial pages tend to require logins to edit. Aren’t the edit history of Wikipedia pages and activity of registered users visible to the public?

  10. An important item that is overlooked time and again in the frequency with which cases are tossed out for “lack of standing”. With overreach and / or secrecy being the standard governmental MO, while you know your privacy was violated because you bought a plane ticket or visited http://www.freestateproject.org, you are told either “well, you consented when you agreed to purchase the ticket”, or “you can’t prove it”. Presumption of innocence is for INDIVIDUALS!!!, not governmental employees acting ex officio. It is time that the courts begin to acknowledge that individuals have a right to know what information is being collected about them. Then with that starting point, anyone will be able to sue to say, “no, I do NOT agree to be surveilled because I want to get on a plane”, or because I’m interested in learning about a group that would like to legally and peacefully clip the wings of the statists.

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