Saturday, January 21, 2006

The truth about the Wikipedia German story

The techie press has been filled with reports that Wikipedia Germany was shut down for three days for hosting an article that revealed the name of German hacker Boris Floricic (aka Tron). The story has also been taken up by the blogosphere. But is the story accurate? Not according to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Jonathan Zittrain posted a message in the Cyberpof mailing list reproducing Wales' opinion about the story. In it, Wales claims that the site was never shut down, not even for an instant, as the servers are in the United States and not in Germany. More importantly, the Wikipedia Foundation has never received a court order.

I have been doing some research of my own. The domain is still working at I performed a traceroute of the domain and it is indeed hosted in the United States, seems to be somewhere in Tampa, Florida. I would then guess that the story is false, and that it was one of those journalistic memes that have never been checked by the reporter. Did they even click on the site to see if it was available?

How did the story start then? It seems like there may be a case against the site, which hosts a group of German Wikipedia enthusiasts. I don't read German, so a translation of the text on the site would be welcome.

It seems like the press gets it wrong (again).

[UPDATE] I've been looking more on this and I still cannot find corroboration that the Wikipedia foundation has actually been sued. The injunction seems to exist against the site, but as that site does not host any content, the injunction would seem to be completely useless. Not only useless, counterproductive. Now more people know about Tron than ever before.


Anonymous said...

Hi. I am Mathias Schindler, a German Wikipedia.

Your research is correct.

The German Wikipedia (which can be found at since 2002) was never offline for legal reasons at any time. In 2005, we were offline due to a power faliure which affected every Wikipedia for a couple of hours.

There is a "preliminary injunction" from January 17, 2006 against "Wikimedia Deutschland e.V", which is an German association dedicated to promote Wikis and Wikimedia. Wikimedia Deutschland does not run the German Wikipedia but it owns "". For a long time, it was used as an redirect to

The injunction was forbidding wikimedia Deutschland to redirect to as long as there is an article containing the civil name of Tron aka Boris Floricic.

Currently, the injunction is sort of suspended after the lawyer from wikimedia Deutschland responded to the municipal Court of Charlottenburg, Berlin. The injunction was found to be too harsh and without proportion.

It will take some weeks until the injunction is completely gone but I am confident that there never was a legal reason against telling the civil name of Boris Floricic. There might be other than legal reasons not to tell that name but I think that there are at least as many reasons why an encyclopedia has to tell an - already confirmed and publicly known - name of a notable person.

You can email me at mathiasDOTschindlerATgmailDOTcom for further information.

Andres Guadamuz said...

Hello Mathias,

Thank you very much for the comment! It is a very interesting situation. What I find more worrying is that the mainstream press publishes and reprints information without checking.