The Wikimedia Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the United States’ National Security Agency and the US Department of Justice.
It’s suing both services over allegations that the NSA’s mass surveillance programs have threatened the intellectual freedoms that underpin Wikipedia.
Lila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said: “By tapping the backbone of the internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy.”
“Wikipedia is founded on the freedoms of expression, inquiry, and information. By violating our users’ privacy, the NSA is threatening the intellectual freedom that is central to people’s ability to create and understand knowledge.”
Wikipedia is the main output of the Wikimedia Foundation, a charitable non-profit organisation that runs a host of ‘wikis’.
It wants to challenge the large-scale search and seizure of internet communications known as upstream surveillance, in hopes of protecting users’ rights to privacy.
The Wikimedia Foundation has teamed up with eight other organisations to launch the suit, including Amnesty International USA and the Human Rights Watch.
According to the foundation, it’s important that users have a free and open space where users can post information to Wikipedia without fear of persecution.
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, is very outspoken on the topic of online privacy, and hopes the suit will bring greater publicity to the impact mass surveillance can have on online life.
Writing in an op-ed for The New York Times, Wales used an example of the Arab Spring in 2011 to convey his concerns, stating: “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 NSA 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.”
The Wikimedia Foundation claims the NSA’s practices and lack of judicial oversight violate Article III of the US Constitution, and hopes to capitalise on this in the courts.
The NSA's mass surveillance programs were outed last year by security expert and whistleblower Edward Snowden.