Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What If The Government Takes Over Wikipedia?

A quick post.

As most people know, Wikipedia will go offline on Wednesday—in protest over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). The Financial Times has a brief but fairly comprehensive overview of what’s going on here.

A lot of people online—myself included—are against both SOPA and PIPA. And for one, I fully support what Wikipedia is trying to do: Shut itself down—the sixth most visited website on the planet—and thereby get those 234 million daily users to read its statement opposing SOPA and PIPA.

Knowing the editorial judiciousness of Jimmy Wales and the Wikipedia team, I have no doubt that, one, their opposition has been carefully thought through; and two, this unprecedented step of shutting down the site is extraordinarily serious—and thus emphasizes how seriously Wales and his team take the measures in SOPA and PIPA.

In other words, Wales and his team aren’t fucking around—this is a big deal.

But I couldn’t help wondering: The U.S. government must also recognize that this isn’t a temperamental teenager throwing hissy-fit—Wikipedia is seriously respected in the online community. Wikipedia’s shut-down is a big black eye to SOPA and PIPA—and to the people who are pushing it, especially Barack Obama’s White House.

So what if the U.S. government were to decide to take over Wikipedia? Prevent it from going offline? With the excuse that they’re taking it over and keeping it online “for the good of the American people”?

Let’s face it, Wikipedia is incredibly important to the Internet. Most of us go to Wikipedia first, if a quick Google search doesn’t get us the info that we need. And whenever we want to get the skinny on something complicated, Wikipedia is often the only place we go to.

Thus we are all particularly dependent on Wikipedia: It shapes our knowledge base much more profoundly than we either realize, or would probably like to admit. The fact that it doesn’t advertise, and depends instead on donations alone, gives it even more credibility, and to our eyes makes it that much more trustworthy.

But Wikipedia is an incredibly small, incredibly fragile operation. It’s yearly budget is less than $20 million per year—nothing, when compared to, say, the bailout of Citi.

Just as it declared Citi, BofA, Goldman and JPMorgan “Systemically Important Financial Institutions”, what’s to stop the U.S. government from declaring Wikipedia a “Systemically Important Website”?

And rather than throwing money at them, what’s to stop the government from revoking Wikipedia’s non-profit status? Declaring it a for-profit—and then using the IRS, say, to take it over? Or better yet, prevent it from shutting down by delaring it “Educationally Essential Website”—and putting it under the aegis of the Education Department? Take it over “for the good of the country”? And then maybe start shading and editing the various Wikipedia entries in order to give a “more balanced version of events”?

“Paranoid”, you say? Well, it’s not paranoia if they’re really coming after you.

Famously, Senator Joe Lieberman brought out security, terrorism, and all the other bugaboos when he argued for the U.S. government to have the ability to shut down the Internet—infamously concluding with the line that, “China, the government, can disconnect its Internet—we need to have that here too.”

State control of the Internet: That’s what Sen. Lieberman meant when he said, We need to have that here too. There’s really no other way to interpret what he said.

What if Lieberman or someone of his delicate sensibilities were to say something like, “Wikipedia is a Systemically Important Website. So we need to be able to take it over—for the protection of the American people and to stop them from being ‘misinformed’.”

Don’t think it can happen? Paranoid, am I?

Then why are Jimmy Wales and his team at Wikipedia shutting themselves down for a day? For kicks?

Or because they think that this is real?


  1. The WikiPedia "maintained" by the US government would end up being a snapshot in time as all that free independent thinking labour moved over to the forked site "WikiPedia: Rebel Alliance".

  2. The 'Feds' have *already* 'taken over' Wikipedia:

    Publishing that the Doctrine of "resurrection" was taught by Jesus (and Mohammed) as a Doctrine of 'Rebirth' would *threaten* the efforts of the United States to initiate a war with Iran.

    In other words, the Doctrine of "resurrection" as taught by Jesus and Mohammed is a "terrorist threat" to the "national security" of the United States.

    That is why it is NOT allowed to be discussed, even as a "minority point of view", on the topic page on "resurrection".

  3. It looks like SOPA has been shelved after Obama indicated he would flat-out veto the legislation in its current form. PIPA may still be in play, but hard to say at this point.

    As of right now Wikipedia indicates they will still go dark tomorrow, however.

    Next up.... The Enemy Expatriation Act which would allow the government to strip any American of their citizenship... These guys never give up.


  4. Our civil liberties will remain under attack. This particular government has increased every single Gov't department with new discretionary powers. (IRS, Homeland Security, Military, Freedom of speech etc...) Think of how much has been lost the last few years under the fondling of this 'uncertain' administration. Worse, it speaks to the ignorance of the public at large. We urgently need an officially sanctioned body that will DEFEND OUR CONSTITUTION!

  5. Mr. Lieberman's name from the German means 'free'-man. Well as long as he is 'free', I guess he figures all is well. I'll take real freedom over security any day.

  6. I think that at this point, the guvmint is just poking and pushing the sheeple to see what all they can get away with before someone goes "postal" or "nuclear" on them. Until such a time, more and more rights will be lost "to protect us" (referring of course to those in guvmint)

  7. Hello,

    I translate Lieberman as "sweetie boy" or "love boy". Mein Lieber Joe, tiny treasure of my heart, as his Senate boy friend, John, might write to him. Don't you just love the German romantics?

    Of course, I'm putting a certain spin on it because I despise the guy. Call it translators's license. Not that there's anything wrong with being a "sweetie boy" but I'm sure Joe would be offended, and as the last known celebrity to be convicted for her activities on Wall Street might say, and that's a good thing....

    Anyway, the real question is, if people oppose what Joe does, why do they vote for him? Same thing could be asked of Americans who are planning to vote for Barry or Mitt. Where are all those progressives out there who were againt everything Obama is doing when it was Bush who was doing it? Where can I find the organization, Progressives against SOPA, or Progressives against NDAA?

    SOPA is an important internet issue, but it also needs to be seen in context as just another building block in the national security state Obama, Mitt, Joe, and their sweetie friends are constructing to surpress both dissent and awarness of how things are outside the controlled mainstream information bubble of America.

    Also, don't depend on Obama to veto the substance of anything the national security state needs, or corporations want. Just look at NDAA. He signed it after "appropriate modifications". SOPA, in my opinion and I hope I'm wrong, will be passed and signed either by Obama or by Mitt sometime next year.



    1. I am a progressive and I am not voting for either. Mr Obama has turned out to be quite the salesman. Dr Paul gets my vote. Hope he can jump ship and become the Libertarian nominee. One might think that Democrats and Republicans alike would vote for him. May be our last chance.

  8. This is so Orwellian. In "1984" Winston Smith's job was to change the official records from the past. Seeing as Wikipedia has become the unofficial last word similar to the Rockefeller owned Encyclopedia Britannica. Lieberman is not only working for the RIAA but for the Rothschilds to gag the last bastion of free expression left on the planet. Lieberman should be impeached over his treasonous Israel first stance on almost everything he does.

  9. Why is Wikipedia so important?

    We got by without it for thousands of years.I'm sure we can get by without it for one day.

    1. Not if you're under 20 years of age.

  10. leiberman is a big bag of spit

    as far is wikipedia goes . the human race will gert along fine with out it ,


  11. A lot of Wikipedia 'editorially correct' content is the result of special interests pushing agendas. Try and correct some of it and you can run right int a room of K-street twenty somethings in a conservative Washington think tank correcting your correction; scientific accuracy be dammed. I know, it happened to me and part of the process of fighting a 'correction war' is you get to know who you opponent is. They are identified in the process.

  12. Understanding the importance & significance of a 'free' internet may be an unrealistic stretch for the career dinosaurs in government.

    Hell, they don't even get the significance of the 'signed in the dead of night' NDAA.

    If they don't give a flying f*ck about the blatant trashing of the US constitution (the one they swore to protect against all enemies, foreign AND domestic), why should anyone think, even for a moment, that they'd give a shit about the internet?

    Most of them probably don't even know enough about the internet to know how little they know. Ignorance breeds fear.
    If you fear it it must be bad.
    If it's bad it must be limited & tightly controlled.

    Politicians just haven't had to worry much about accountability since their peasants stopped carrying pitchforks & torches...

  13. The t-shirts that say on the back:


    The entire Obama administration should be wearing them.

    And the rest of congress too.

  14. I haven't read SOPA or PIPA, don't like what I've heard. If Dept. of Ed. takes over Wiki, page views would plummet.

    Thanks for the post, I was going to email you to get your thoughts on the topic.

  15. In answer to your title's rhetorical question:

    History In The Making

  16. Not to digress, GL, but...

    If there is no God, who cares? Life is but an enormous, meaningless, absurd joke -- and there is no such thing, nor can there be any such thing as right or wrong, good or bad, etc! Eat, drink, and satiate whatever disordered passions constitute your personal cup of tea!

  17. While I am certainly not in favor of SOPA or PIPA, I doubt the U.S. government would seriously consider "taking over" Wikidpedia for two key reasons: a) it would violate various laws and b) more importantly, the U.S. government would have to coordinate with numerous other countries to achieve this result. Even if the U.S. executive branch "went off the rocker" and tried to take Wiki over, France, Germany, Britain et. al wouldn't follow along...without their cooperation, any U.S. move would be inept.

  18. If the US government tried to take over Wikipedia couldn't it just move offshore? It would seem to me that on the internet that would be pretty easy. I'm glad the legislation got shot down though. It was still pretty scary and it was good to see the international public kick up a big stink.

  19. If there's a bad idea about how to operate any activity, dome government somewhere has already tried it. And that same government also pronounced their "experiment" as successful. The United States is just the last in a long line of countries to attempt it. And just like any other government-educated batch of fools, they see the results but are hell-bent to say, "It only failed in those other places because it was the wrong people attempting it. We'll be better at it than they were." Some examples:

    Social Security: Adopted from Bismark's Germany, it has shown the folly of government setting future "benefits" for its citizens;

    Government Education: Also adopted from Germany, it was a system never designed to fully educate beyond the mere basics to enable its product to be employable in factories;

    And the grand-daddy of all failed policies: Socialism. An abysmal failure everywhere it's been tried. Yet there will always be some fool somewhere who believes he can be better at implementing Socialism than Lenin.

    When I was trapped in government schooling for 12 years, the motto was: "Those who can do something right will do it. Those who can't will be able to teach it. Those who fail at teaching it will try to regulate it."

  20. All these guy's remind me of the old saying that if you let the Camel get his nose in under the tent it won't be long befor all of him is in.
    Governments will try to take control and userp freedoms under the guise of protecting the people.
    Most will allow it to go on until it's too late.
    Wake up America and open yiour eyes to these guy's.

  21. Nope. Jimmy Wales plays few steps ahead of you. He is shutting down to make a very serious face. He knows what you don't.

    a) Jimmy wants to make millions.
    b) If haven't noticed yet, political articles on
    Wikipedia are complete propaganda today, already.
    c) There is no need to take over Wikipidia, - they
    are already "in line" with govt. programme.
    d) Therefore, Wikipedia will not be ever shot down.
    e) But, when many are, Jimmy will need a cover that he
    was against PIPA and SOPA.

    If I was wrong, and Jimmy was really afraid that the government would make Wikipedia pages into a propaganda, then why would he have them as propaganda already, now?

    There is no way to oppose this development, because there is no line that can be drawn. If we acknowledge that there are intellectual property rights, then it is going to remain the subject of authoritarian discretion. This is because we want to allow some degree of theft, irrespective of those rights.

    Instead, we need to realize that there is no such thing as intellectual property. On this basis, SOPA, PIPA, and anything else they throw at us can be easily defeated.

    Somehow, I tend to thing that you don't agree with this. You're pretty well brainwashed, so I expect you to support so called "intellectual property" as a concept.

  22. People there is only one solution which can be implimented by you, the people of this country to change the federal governmental controls over your lives. You need a powerful origanization which you can influence. It is obvious that we the people cannot influence this current federal government. Its like trying to stop a runaway truck going downhill, with brakes designed for a car. It can't be done, however, you can get the state government to oppose any law, rule, regulation, or policy that the federal government passes which violates the constitution. Tell them what you think , why you need their help to change the course of this country. Central government is out of control .The state governments are the only origanized force powerful enough to oppose the central government. MAke them your sword of justice and restore the great power of the constitution. and say no to any law which violates the constitution, So, if you want to redirect the destructive force , of the central governement , tell your state representatives, governors and state courts that you want your constutuional rights perserved against all agencies who try to violate your rights. Lets see how the federal government deals with ALL the states who say NO, NO MORE. This will not happen in my state.
    Now, lets say that YOUR STATE REFUSES to listen to your needs and respect the constitution, what answer does that send to you the citizen of this country? Think about it.
    Then you will finally have the answer, you will know exactly where you the people stand, hopefully it is not on quicksand, but on solid foundation supported by your state.
    Only one real way to find out. ask your state for help. Follow the example of Vermont and Some of the towns and cities in Maine. Read and become educated.. I am almost 70 and I tell all you young people out there, this country is yours, but you have to fight for it. Get your state to support your efforts, don't be part of the PROBLEM, be the SOLUTION.

  23. Rumors of the death of SOPA may be premature,they still have no indication that SOPA is fully off the table. PIPA is still alive and kicking.

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