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German Wikipedia attacked over Nazi symbolism

Politician files charges

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Updated A German politician has filed charges with Berlin police against Wikipedia's German language site on the grounds that it contains "too much Nazi symbolism, particularly an article on the Hitler Youth movement".

Katina Schubert, a deputy leader of the Left party, told Reuters she'd sought legal advice before making her move, explaining: "The extent and frequency of the symbols on it goes beyond what is needed for documentation and political education, in my view. This isn't about restricting freedom of opinion, it's about examining what the limits are."

Schubert said she "hoped [the action] would encourage public debate on how far internet platforms should be allowed to aid proponents of extremist, anti-Semitic, and racist ideologies". She added: "There are signs neo-Nazis are trying to take advantage of such structures, and this needs to be stopped in good time."

Displaying Nazi symbols is illegal in Germany, but they are permitted for "educational and artistic purposes". Arne Klempert, managing director of Wikimedia Deutschland, duly countered: "We don't really know what Ms Schubert's problem is. What's important is the context the symbols are used in, and here it's quite clearly education and documentation.

"Anyone who tries to prevent the Nazi period being documented properly has a strange understanding of the world, in my view. Because that's the best weapon there is [to prevent] something like that from happening again."

Members of Schubert's own party also weighed in to defend Wikipedia. Heiko Hilker, a Left party media expert in Saxony's state parliament, said: "Katina Schubert 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."

Police will now pass Schubert's charges to state prosecutors, who will decide on any further action, Reuters notes.

Updated: It seems Katina Schubert has now withdrawn her complaint following discussions with Wikipedia staff. Her primary concern was that images could be easily re-purposed because they were online rather than in books. There's more, in German, here. ®

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