Wikimedia Foundation Challenging NSA 'Upstream' Surveillance

The Wikimedia Foundation is taking the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice to court, challenging their large-scale surveillance program.

The Wikimedia Foundation, the organization responsible for bringing you Wikipedia, plans to challenge the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice's surveillance program in court.

Wikimedia Executive Director Lila Tretikov talked about the foundation's reasons for taking action in a blog post:

"By tapping the backbone of the internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy.”

The belief of the Wikimedia Foundation is that the NSA's large-scale search and seizure violates the basic rights of U.S. citizens outlined in the Constitution. Particularly, the Fourth Amendment that protects against unreasonable search and seizure, and the First Amendment that protects freedom of speech and association.

Founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, also spoke out about the lawsuit in the blog post, saying:

“We’re filing suit today on behalf of our readers and editors everywhere. Surveillance erodes the original promise of the internet: an open space for collaboration and experimentation, and a place free from fear.”

The post goes on to say that the NSA's actions corrupt and endanger Wikipedia's most basic vision: to share knowledge openly amongst its users. But if there's an agent looking over everyone's shoulder, that alone could compromise an editor's or contributor's voice, making them unconsciously or consciously censor themselves.

It may seem far-fetched that citizens of a free, democratic nation would feel the need to hold back on their opinions online, but after the Edward Snowden revelations, MIT researchers noticed a trend in Google search terms. People were less likely to use “search terms that they believed might get them in trouble with the U.S. government” and “that were rated as personally sensitive.”

One of the authors of the paper wrote to VentureBeat, explaining:

“Study after study has [shown] that human behavior changes when we know we’re being watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively are less free.”

To read more about the Wikimedia Foundation's lawsuit, check out its blog post.

Photo Credit: Scott Robinson / Flickr

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