Politician Drops Charges Against Wikipedia Over Nazi Symbols | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 07.12.2007
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Politician Drops Charges Against Wikipedia Over Nazi Symbols

A Left Party politician filed charges with police against online encyclopedia Wikipedia's German language site for featuring banned Nazi symbols, only to bow to pressure from her party and withdraw the case.

Wikipedia's logo in several languages

Schubert says Wikipedia needs better quality control

"My complaints relate to content on Wikipedia such as an article about the Hitler Youth movement," said deputy chairwoman Katina Schubert of the Left Party in an interview with Welt Online.

The article features Nazi symbols, which the politician argues can be easily downloaded and disseminated.

"Wikipedia lends itself to abuse by right-wing extremists," she said, pointing to their repeated attempts to use the World Wide Web as a platform to distribute propaganda.

The limits of Nazi emblems

Neo-Nazis take to the street during a rally

The Internet is a useful tool for Nazis -- and anyone else who wants to share information

Public display of Nazi symbols is illegal in Germany, but the symbols can be used for educational and artistic purposes.

"But the extent and frequency of the symbols on it goes beyond what is needed for documentation and political education, in my view," Schubert told Reuters news agency. "This isn't about restricting freedom of opinion; it's about examining what the limits are."

Schubert told Reuters she hoped that by filing the case, she would encourage public debate on how far Internet platforms should be allowed to aid proponents of extremist, anti-Semitic and racist ideologies.

"I hope to encourage the operators to maintain their open structure but to introduce political and ethical standards that make it impossible for Nazis to promote their fascist nonsense as valuable knowledge on the Net," she wrote in a statement.

Informative purposes

Someone typing at a computer

Schubert doesn't understand the principles of Wikipedia, say her detractors

Arne Klempert, spokesman for Wikimedia Deutschland, an organization that promotes the Internet lexicon in Germany, rejected the charge and said he resented the fact Schubert filed the charge without talking to Wikimedia first.

"We don't really know what Ms Schubert's problem is," he said. "The symbols are posted for the purposes of information.

"The Wikipedia community is at pains to ensure balance in articles like this one," he said in Welt Online. "We don't maintain there are no problems, but we have them under control."

No party support

Schubert met with little support within her own party, and withdrew her charges on Friday morning.

"I do not share Katina Schubert's position, nor do the party's media experts," said Heiko Hilker from the Left Party in a statement. "She fails to grasp the self-regulating mechanisms that work in Wikipedia. Right-wing extremism on the World Wide Web cannot be tackled via national criminal proceedings."

Mathias Schindler, a member of Wikimedia's board of directors, told Welt Online that he was relying on the Left party to show Schubert the error of her ways.

"They should be able to find someone who can explain to her how Wikipedia works and how problematic articles are dealt with," he said.

"Clearly, I chose the wrong way to conduct this argument," said Schubert.

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