Wikimedia Foundation calls on US Supreme Court to strike laws that threaten Wikipedia

The Foundation supports challenges to laws in Texas and Florida that jeopardize Wikipedia's community-led governance model and the right to freedom of expression.

An amicus brief, also known as a “friend-of-the-court” brief, is a document filed by individuals or organizations who are not part of a lawsuit, but who have an interest in the outcome of the case and want to raise awareness about their concerns. The Wikimedia Foundation’s amicus brief calls upon the Supreme Court to strike down laws passed in 2021 by Texas and Florida state legislatures. Texas House Bill 20 and Florida Senate Bill 7072 prohibit website operators from banning users or removing speech and content based on the viewpoints and opinions of the users in question.

“These laws expose residents of Florida and Texas who edit Wikipedia to lawsuits by people who disagree with their work,” said Stephen LaPorte, General Counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation. “For over twenty years, a community of volunteers from around the world have designed, debated, and deployed a range of content moderation policies to ensure the information on Wikipedia is reliable and neutral. We urge the Supreme Court to rule in favor of NetChoice to protect Wikipedia’s unique model of community-led governance, as well as the free expression rights of the encyclopedia’s dedicated editors.”

“The quality of Wikipedia as an online encyclopedia depends entirely on the ability of volunteers to develop and enforce nuanced rules for well-sourced, encyclopedic content,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, Vice President of Global Advocacy at the Wikimedia Foundation. “Without the discretion to make editorial decisions in line with established policies around verifiability and neutrality, Wikipedia would be overwhelmed with opinions, conspiracies, and irrelevant information that would jeopardize the project’s reason for existing.”


Texas House Bill 20 and Florida Senate Bill 7072 prohibit website operators from banning users or removing speech and content based on the viewpoints and opinions of the users in question.

These laws expose residents of Florida and Texas who edit Wikipedia to lawsuits by people who disagree with their work

I don’t understand this. Content on wikipedia isn’t removed based on the viewpoints or opinions of users.


Doesn’t matter. The laws are so unconstitutionally broad that it allows an attack on anyone who disagrees with the work in question. Even if it’s historical. So those experts that edit or create articles can be harassed.

AnneBonny, (edited )

I haven’t read the Florida law, but I can’t see how the Texas law could be interpreted to permit action be brought against a user of a website under a set of circumstances.

Edit: I’m saying I can’t see how, not arguing it doesn’t.

mlg, avatar

I think people would be surprised just how often the Wikipedia mods have to remind people that the government or court of any nation does not affect the facts of an event or change the reporting of media.

There’s a cesspool of a changes thread for the Gujarat Massacre page because every BJP supporter showed up deleting entire swaths of paragraphs because the Supreme Court of India cleared Modi of any involvement, so obviously that means he’s innocent and the event in question never happened.

EmperorHenry, avatar

Fuck wikipedia. They shouldn’t get to be the only place for information.


They’re not.

Also, fuck you.

H2SO4 avatar

Can you expand on why you think they are that? I'm dumb and not understanding.

"prohibit website operators from banning users or removing speech and content based on the viewpoints and opinions of the users in question"
That sounds like subjective and obviously biased opinions, which obviously should be removed?

I'd really like to understand why you think Wikipedia should fuck off. It might be subpar, but there still exist dictionaries, journalism and a lot of other places on the internet than Wikipedia.

As I recall, Wikipedia is not an accepted source in academia, but it's fantastic for everyday use.


Honestly Overbanning is such a problem that I actually support these laws


They should just show up to Clarence Thomas’ house with a suitcase of money and get some Argentinian old guy to call up Roberts claiming to be the Pope and tell him how to vote.


So am I to understand that this is yet another attempt by fascists and Nazis to claim free speech rights as a way to destroy free speech and oppress all opposing voices, including those who defend factual information?


In a nutshell, yeah that’s pretty much it.


It’s basically the tactic of adding noise to a discourse to derail the conversation, thus preventing conversation altogether and keeping factual information from being accessible.

Buttons, (edited ) avatar

I’ve said this before. They are targeting the wrong layer!

They want to force websites to be neutral while allowing the internet providers to block and shape traffic however they want.

Force ISPs to allow access to all websites - good

Force ISPs to allow anyone to host a website at home - good

Force AWS to allow anyone to pay for and host websites on their infrastructure - probably good, but we’re approaching the line

Force websites to host content they don’t want to host - bad


It’s almost like they’re just wrong about everything.


It’s not about being right or wrong, they know what they’re doing. Quit giving them the benefit of the doubt.

They want to derail discourse so they can apply their politically expedient talking points without competition or questioning.


Wrong as in wrong-headed. They want to make everything worse.


I wish they would move their base of operations to a country with a more stable government and just ignore weird laws like this.


These laws expose residents of Florida and Texas who edit Wikipedia to lawsuits by people who disagree with their work

If that quote it accurate, then it doesn’t matter where Wikipedia itself is based.


Does Sealand offer servers?


Which one?


New Zealand, Zealand province.


Zealand is not the same as Sealand. Notice how the first letter is an “S” and not a “Z”?


I’m guessing my comment was too advanced then, of course they’re different.


Which is why your comment wasn’t advanced, but nonsensical.

Unless you mean like “aDvaNCeD”, in which case, uh, sure.


Not nonsensical, just part of the joke.


Was the joke you not knowing the difference between S and Z? 🤨


No, the joke about going to more stable government and that any of the options would be a better one.

I don’t really get the insistence on you thinking I don’t know the difference between two letters, was just trying to be part of the whole thing and obviously failed.


Honestly moving to the EU is probably their best bet. But laws respecting speech are not nearly as liberal.


But laws respecting speech are not nearly as liberal.

Then I’m not sure if it would be their best bet … Wikipedia relies on free speech on many levels.


Seems like a better bet than the USA at least.


I feel like those laws would affect all social media platforms and directly go against Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.


Goddammit, now I’m going to have to donate, arent i


Do it. One of the best things the Internet ever enabled.


Fine. Anyone else?


Wikipedia is one of the most impressive collective creations of the modern world. One day corrupt politicians will ruin it. They’re one of the organizations I donate to every year in my futile hope they preserve it as long as possible. Articles like this just reinforces the need to vote for people who aren’t actually cartoon villains. May not vote for SC but we do for who appoints them.


I donate frequently also. It pains me that people poke fun at Wikimedia or Jimmy Wales for their constant fundraising. It’s such a ubiquitous tool, it’s a miracle that it’s free.

linearchaos, avatar

It’s entirely possible to get it out of their reach. It needs to be pushed out to the point of the Pirate Bay.

It’s just begging for their primary mechanism to be decentralized. They could severely reduce their operating expenses if they went to community hosting.

DHT, chunks of it hosted everywhere. New content and corrections come down as deltas. There are already copies of it on IPFS that are relatively robust, as robust as IPFS can be anyway.


Can Wikipedia simply not allow users from Texas or Florida? I.e. not operate in that jurisdiction?


Yes, but that kinda defeats the point of an open knowledge library for all. This is a problem that should be fixed with legislation and not artificial blocking. We shouldn’t punish the unfortunate for being stuck with the stupid.


I feel like they should see the consequences of their actions. The politicians might learn that the public won’t put up with this shit, rather than have it forced upon them by a higher court so they can continue to play the victim card.


Not everyone in Florida and Texas voted for the fascists and not everyone who wanted to vote against them were able to.

Punishing those who are not complicit is injust, not to mention excellent campaign fodder for the fascists.


I understand your point. My intention isn’t so much to “punish” as to have them see the consequences of their policies. Which should drive a sane voting public against them once they really see first hand the consequences. If SCOTUS or someone hands down a ruling to counter them, then they just play the victim card, and their supporters are emboldened.


Again, not all sane Texans and Floridians are afforded the rights and opportunities needed to vote or otherwise get their voice heard.

If anything, geoblocking those states would only serve to deprive those not savvy enough to deploy a VPN and that’s a group that’s already more likely to be fooled by the demagogues and dishonest media outlets that would paint Wikipedia as the villains.

In other words, geoblocking the fascist-occupied territories would only serve to harden the support of the fascists while inconveniencing many and accomplishing nothing positive.

I agree 💯 that there needs to be consequences for the tyrannical actions of fascists, but geoblocking isn’t it.

Dark_Arc, avatar

Honestly… I get your point and I know people in Texas that don’t agree with Texas politics. However, the largest party in the county is the party of “I don’t vote.” If you actually manage to wake up 10%… 20%… 30%… of those people, plus all the Republican voters that didn’t want it, plus all the Democrats that didn’t want it and/or got lazy with their state votes… Well we might actually see major change in representation from Texas.


the largest party in the county is the party of “I don’t vote.” If you actually manage to wake up 10%… 20%… 30%… of those people

Which part of “not able to” don’t you get? Calling disenfranchised people asleep is victim blaming that doesn’t give them the right and ability to vote back.

Dark_Arc, avatar

Oh bull shit. There are way more apathetic people that don’t vote because they don’t want to (because they don’t think it matters or don’t care) than people that are actually not able to vote.

If your “disenfranchisement” in particular boils down to “both sides … my vote doesn’t matter” I have 0 sympathy for you. It very clearly does matter.



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  • Dark_Arc, avatar

    Really? And here I thought you were coming off SUPER sympathetic! 🙄

    I’m sympathetic to people who voted for the right policies but still live there. Not to the people who can vote but choose not to exercise their rights and then complain about how things are going.

    In any case, I think you’re rude and full of shit.


    people who can vote but choose not to

    Are still not the people I’m talking about. Retire that strawman, please.

    In any case, I think you’re rude and full of shit.

    Well you’re half right. I’m being rude on purpose because your moronic take based on prejudice and ignoring the faults of your “teams” DESERVES that and more. Also, pretty hypocritical to complain about me being rude in the same sentence as calling me full of shit 🙄

    Pro tip: the one who’s full of shit is usually the one who keeps repeating the same strawman over and over after the other has explained thoroughly and repeatedly that it’s not what they’re saying.

    In conclusion: you’re wrong and we’re done here. Have the day you deserve.


    “If you don’t like being bombed, get your neighbors to stop supporting Hamas.”

    Collective punishment.

    Dark_Arc, avatar

    That is an offensive comparison. I’m not touching that, there’s no “winning” in the discussion you’ve set up for either of us.

    KmlSlmk64, avatar

    What would happen, if they ignored the laws and did not geoblock Texas and Florida, just say they don’t operate there, but not restrict the users and still operate the way they operated until now?


    Fines I would assume. Lawsuits even.

    Buttons, avatar

    How does that work?

    Like, let’s say I’m born in Oregon, I live my whole life in Oregon, I get to vote for national representative and Oregon representatives. I set up a server in Oregon, my server responds to electronic requests that it receives from an Oregon company which I connect to with a wire that goes through Oregon.

    Then I get sued for breaking Texas laws. At what point did I become subject to Texas law?

    At best, at best, you could say that I’m doing “interstate commerce” which is governed by the federal government, not state law.


    If I remember correctly, at least some of Wikipedia’s servers are in Florida. So Florida would definitely be able to take action against them.

    KmlSlmk64, avatar

    But, like when they would say in their EULA, that people from Texas and Florida are not allowed, then by using the service would be breaking of EULA and the wikipedia foundation could theoretically say that they’re not operating there and it’s the users fault. Like could someone still sue them then?


    You can’t just put illegal discrimination in your EULA and expect it to be legally binding for the user. Also, you don’t even have to sign a EULA to use Wikipedia. It’s an open dictionary, not a proprietary app from a for-profit company.

    KmlSlmk64, avatar

    Why can’t you restrict usage if you don’t comply with local laws? Why can companies like Facebook restrict usage of their new features like Threads in the EU then? Or some US news network restricting access from the EU?


    Why can companies like Facebook restrict usage of their new features like Threads in the EU then?

    They can’t. The EU is constantly fining them and suing them for not complying with EU law.

    some US news network restricting access from the EU?

    The EU law says that they can’t force cookies on EU residents. It doesn’t say that they can’t accomplish that by geoblocking.

    As for Wikipedia, maybe they’re legally allowed to block all of Texas and Florida, maybe they’re not.

    Regardless, such a move would be the opposite of the mission and function of Wikipedia: to be a free source for unbiased information available to everyone.

    KairuByte, avatar

    I don’t believe “location you currently are” is a protected class.


    True, but I’m pretty sure collective punishment is illegal or at least frowned upon in most countries…

    Regardless of legality, it would go against the whole mission statement of being the world’s largest freely available encyclopedia to just start geoblocking everyone from states with ridiculous laws…

    KairuByte, avatar

    This isn’t “punishment” in the eyes of the law. There’s really nothing preventing a site from banning an entire state, it’s happened before, it’ll happen again the way these laws are going.

    But yeah, in the specific case of Wikipedia I doubt they’ll do it unless things get pushed to the absolutely limit of what they can handle.


    Yes, but that kinda defeats the point of an open knowledge library for all.

    Not if they are just blocking editors/authors, not regular viewers.


    That would conflict with the proposed law. They want to be able to write what they want, not see what already exists.


    We shouldn’t punish the unfortunate for being stuck with the stupid.

    I’m a Texan and over 7 mil didn’t vote in the last gubernatorial election. Block us. It’ll piss off high school and college students royally and they’re the blocks we need voting.


    History has taught us restricting access to knowledge never goes well. It will piss some people off, sure. Enough to make a difference? Can’t say, most people are indifferent. As long as they get AN answer, that’s all they care about. Not necessarily the correct one.

    MisterFrog, avatar

    Cheers for this (and my condolences), as much as it sucks to block Texas, it’d be much worse to let Texas ruin Wikipedia for the rest of the world.

    Deceptichum avatar

    laws passed in 2021 by Texas and Florida state legislatures. Texas House Bill 20 and Florida Senate Bill 7072 prohibit website operators from banning users or removing speech and content based on the viewpoints and opinions of the users in question

    What the absolute fuck America.


    Texas and Florida are pretty well-known as the shitholes of America. Run by populist idiots who cater to the uninformed and gullible voter. I’m sure there are places like that in every country.


    Places like that in other countries usually don’t have as much power as US States do. Other countries are better designed and don’t have practically independent sub-countries inside them with their own laws.


    If you are going to compare the United States to other political entities, I think that the better thing to compare it to is the European Union rather than other countries, because like the EU the US was formed from the union of sovereign member states and that is why it is designed the way that it is (for better or worse).

    Given that, I have an honest question asked out of ignorance: Does the EU have more power over its member states than the United States does? (I am not super-familiar with it, so the answer may very well be yes.)


    I think it’s even better to compare the US with other federated nations - Canada, Australia, Russia, Brazil, India, Argentina etc. as they’re all constitutional nations of federated states with separations of power between the federation and the individual states.

    SomethingBurger, (edited )

    It has less. The EU is mostly an economic union. It can regulate trade and consumer rights, but not much else. Countries must adhere to the European Declaration of Human Rights and some other conditions to join the Union (like being a democracy or having a stable economy), but the EU cannot enforce these rules after the fact; see Hungary which became a near-dictatorship after joining, or France which is regularly sentenced for human rights violations and simply pays the fine instead of changing anything.

    EU laws cannot contradict a country’s constitution. If they clash, the country must - by EU rules - change its constitution, but not doing so carries almost no consequence, and the country can ignore the law; however, if a court case around said law makes it to the EU Court of Justice, it will be judged using EU laws.

    Also, the EU doesn’t have an army or a police force, so rebellious member states can only be economically sanctioned into compliance, which almost never happens to any serious degree, as it would cause too much political trouble within the union.


    Federalism can also be a very good thing to allow autonomy for certain groups within a country, though. I wouldn’t say Unitarianism is a better design by default.


    Why would certain groups have autonomy on some things but not others? They don’t get to pick and choose. Either declare independence or submit to the central government.


    I strongly disagree. Local autonomy is important for a functioning country, especially one with minority ethnic groups.


    Is this a US thing I’m too French to understand?

    In a functioning country, minority ethnic groups are regular citizens without a special status and don’t have more legitimacy to be autonomous than other people. Ethnic groups don’t control land; governments do. Otherwise, it’s called an ethnostate and it’s not a good thing.


    No, this is a “normal” thing that you are too French to understand.


    Frérot, la France a des territoires d’outre-mer qui votent leurs propres lois et ont leur propre monnaie.

    Ensuite tu dois connaître trop peu de ta propre histoire pour dire que les états fédéraux sont des “ethnostates”. La France depuis Louis XIV a systématiquement réprimé, violemment, les langues et les cultures non-Parisiennes sur son territoire. L’EN n’enseigne que le Français, et les enfants qui y parlaient une autre langue étaient frappés jusqu’à ce qu’ils arrêtent.

    Les Parisiens ont éradiqué les autres cultures de France, et je ne vois pas en quoi c’est plus légitime et moins problématique que de laisser des régions avec une langue et une culture différente s’auto-administrer pour prendre en compte leur différence.


    In a functioning country, minority ethnic groups are regular citizens without a special status

    Would it be correct to say that you don’t care for affirmative action?


    It can be useful to improve the condition of minorities, but it is not a special status like First Nations or even an autonomous government.


    Is this a US thing I’m too French to understand?

    I’d say likely yes to this. It’s much easier to centrally govern a more geographically dense and homogeneous country.

    In the US we have strong localized government (city/county, state) and the more sweeping Federal government.

    And they do submit to central government, that’s exactly what the discussion in this article is about- will the central court decide to strike down their local laws?


    Federalism works pretty well in Germany too. Why would you want one central government have decide what happens in your region far away from the capital?


    What’s the point of being a single country if each territory has its own laws?

    btp avatar

    Checks and balances. Plus, the U.S. is a very large country, with a large population that has their own priorities and values. Local municipalities can also vary largely within state governments. The federal system allows these communities to self-determine, while also enacting a foundation of basic rights and government function.


    if each territory has its own laws?

    This is not the case.

    Most of the laws are on a national level.


    Does it make sense to have local government? A mayor or a city council that decides how to run a town? You could (and certainly will) end up with with situations where some things are generally legal in the country, but illegal in some specific towns.

    States are really no different.


    Feels like we're in a death spiral.

    Drunemeton, avatar

    “Please keep your hands inside the ride at all times.”


    How would it work if, say, a website run out of California or even another country violated this law


    Pretty much the same way that Europe’s GDPR works: they fine the business operations within the covered jurisdiction. If you don’t do business in their jurisdiction, you are perfectly free to tell them to shove their regulation up their ass.

    Wikimedia collects donations from Texans. If these laws survive a legal challenge, Wikimedia would either have to stop collecting donations from Texas or comply with Texas law.


    “We want small government!”

    “But also big government in cases where our hate speech might be at stake!”


    They want to normalize calls for executing undesirables


    The wording of this law makes no sense to me. You could apply it to almost anything

    KairuByte, avatar

    You’re catching on!


    But what does this even mean? Is a moderator removing a comment about someone’s opinion about pineapple on pizza a crime?


    Does this means we can invade truth social or reddit/conservative and they won’t be allowed to ban their contradictory?

    rhythmisaprancer avatar

    Gosh this seems so relevant to the Wikipedia highway discussion. Maybe there cannot be flexibility in their rules when they are facing this type of threat.


    They say the multiverse contains every possible version of existence. They are wrong. There is no version of existence in which our illegitimate “supreme” court sides with any entity that exists to provide honest education to the public. As long as conservatives have infested the court (and our nation), it simply cannot happen.


    Well yeah they said every POSSIBLE version. If it’s not possible, it wouldn’t exist in the multiverse.


    Also, they multiverse may contain an infinite number of realities, but not all possible realities.


    How exactly is the Supreme Court “illegitimate”?


    1: a majority (5 out of 9) of the judges on the court were appointed by presidents that weren’t duly elected: one was appointed by an earlier SCOTUS stopping legal ballots from being counted and the other was proven to engage in a vast election fraud conspiracy with foreign adversaries. Even after all that cheating, neither won a majority or even a plurality of votes.

    2: One of those 5 and one of the remaining 4 were appointed in spite of credible accusations of serious crimes. In neither case, those accusations were seriously, thoroughly and independently investigated. In one of those cases, the reaction revealed a thin-skinned, hot-tempered and vindictive demeanor unfitting of the most local judge, let alone one of the highest court.

    3: One of the above likely sexual offenders is a wholly owned subsidiary of Billionaires’ Every Whim LLC and the rest agree with the servant of nazi memorabilia collector Harlan Crow that no real consequences for or even reporting of ethics violations by themselves would be appropriate.

    4: Another of the 5 appointed by illegitimate presidents belongs to a theocratic cult that considers religious law to supercede the secular law the courts are tasked with interpreting and shaping, making her by definition biased in favor of theocracy and against the establishment clause of the first amendment.

    5: Almost all of them have neglected to recuse themselves from at least one case where they had a conflict of interest, some of them dozens if not hundreds of times

    There’s probably more reasons, but those are the most obvious and indisputable ones, each of which is in itself sufficient to at the very least cast doubt on the legitimacy of the court.


    Nothing after number 1 is relevant. As long as you are nominated by the current POTUS, and are confirmed by the senate via a simple majority, you are legitimate.

    As far as number 1 goes, which non-elected presidents appointed justices?

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