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France Implicated in Wikipedia Censorship Threat

France Implicated in Wikipedia Censorship Threat

Today in international tech news: After failed threats, France's intelligence agency draws thousands of eyes to the Wikipedia page it wanted removed. Also: A human rights group will equip activists with an electronic tracking bracelet that can trip a social media alarm; a European telecom gets big dough from Canada -- again -- to use BlackBerry; and China's Tencent defuses online angst and confirms its WeChat app will remain free.

By David Vranicar
04/08/13 9:12 AM PT

Intelligence agents for the Direction Central du Renseignement Intérieur -- France's top intelligence agency -- were accused of censorship after threatening to arrest and charge a Wikipedia volunteer.

The hubbub originated with an article that contains classified military secrets, according to operatives, and ergo is a threat to national security. The article, which is still available, describes a military radio relay station in France that is believed to be part of the country's nuclear detection and deterrent network.

In March, the DCRI contacted Wikipedia's parent organization, the Wikimedia Foundation, about taking down the page. Wikimedia replied that DCRI hadn't provided evidence that the article was a risk, and therefore left it online.

Things got more interesting last week when the DCRI summoned a 30-year-old library curator, who is a Wikipedia volunteer and who has administrator's access to the site. The man reportedly had nothing to do with the page in question but claims he was told to take it down all the same. After declining, he was reportedly told that he would be held in custody and charged for failing to comply.

This sequence of events, rather predictably, resulted in unintended consequences: The vice president of Wikimedia France said that the page in question had between 10 and 60 visitors; as of Sunday, there were "around 10,000 from around the world."

The Wikimedia VP did add, though, that the page would indeed be taken down if DCRI produces the requisite legal papers.

[Source: The Guardian]

LoJack for Human Rights Fighters

Stockholm-based human rights group Civil Rights Defenders has issued a GPS bracelet that will send out an alert should a bracelet's owner ever be kidnapped.

The first five bracelets -- designed to tip off CRD, nearby activists and CRD's social media network -- were handed out last week at "Defenders' Days," a CRD conference. Fifty-five such bracelets will be distributed over the next 18 months.

The bracelets can be activated manually or automatically if forcibly removed. A signal with GPS information will then be sent to CRD, with automatic notifications popping up on Twitter and Facebook.

The bracelets are part of the Natalia Project, named after Natalia Estemirova, a human rights activist who was abducted and murdered in 2009. The CRD hopes that the bracelets could save lives of other activists who are targeted.

[Sources: Civil Rights Defenders; Slash Gear]

Canada Gives Dough to European Telecom to Boost BlackBerry

The Canadian export agency, Export Development Canada (EDC), has given a US$257 million "financing facility" to Telefonica, Europe's largest telecommunications operator by revenue.

The credit line will be used to provide BlackBerry products and services across Telefonica's broad global operations, which span numerous Latin American and European markets.

Telefonica is no stranger to government agency financing. In addition to a deal with EDC in 2006, Telefonica also secured a $1 billion credit line from Sweden's export agencies last month in a deal to buy Ericsson infrastructure.

[Source: Reuters]

Tencent: WeChat to Remain Free

In response to rumors that its chatting app might soon no longer be free, Tencent Holdings' chief executive said that the company is unlikely to charge any fees.

Rumors that the WeChat app would start charging had riled users something fierce, but Tencent confirmed that the app, which boasts some 300 million users, would remain free.

Tencent can now refocus on its push to take WeChat overseas.

[Source: Reuters]


David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.


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