Noticed Wikipedia wasn’t working in Spain this morning? Here’s why

Wikipedia went down in Spain on Wednesday July 4th in protest at an upcoming European Parliament vote on a highly disputed law that could make online platforms legally liable for copyrighted material put on the web by users.

Noticed Wikipedia wasn't working in Spain this morning? Here's why
Wikipedia also decided to take down its US site in 2012 in protest of controversial internet legislation debated by Congress. Photo: Thomas Cloer/Flickr

In Spain, Italy and Poland, an explanatory protest statement about the upcoming vote appears when the online encyclopedia is browsed in any of these three country's languages. 

The temporary website closure was introduced on July 4th and continued until July 5th around midday. 

“The directive would threaten online freedom and would impose new filters, barriers and restrictions to access the web,” Wikipedia Spain said in its statement.

“If the proposal was approved in its actual version, actions like sharing news on social networks or accessing news via a search engine would be more complicated on the Internet.”

It added that Wikipedia would be “at risk” and asked users to phone their MEPs.

The overhaul of European copyright law is divided into several sections, one of which is the reform criticised by Wikipedia and others who have warned it will lead to blanket censorship by tech giants.

Another reform would force online platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay for links to news content, which news agencies including AFP have hailed as a “major step”.

The European Commission has replied saying that “Wikipedia and other online encyclopaedias would not fall within the scope of the Commission's Copyright proposal.”

But Wikipedia chief Jimmy Wales and Greens MEP Julia Reda, a leading campaigner on the issue, insist that it will.

Thursday's parliament vote is not final, but only sets out the negotiating position of MEPs.

There then follow negotiations with member states for a final position, during which the full extent of the law and whether it does apply to Wikipedia will be worked out.

Austria, which has just assumed the EU's six-month rotating presidency, has said this will be difficult, so there will have to be some sort of compromise.


Mayor fears migrants will ruin Wikipedia event

The mayor of an Italian town of just 760 inhabitants fears the arrival of a further 60 refugees could ruin its plans to host the world Wikimania Convention in 2016.

Mayor fears migrants will ruin Wikipedia event
A bird's eye view of Esino Lario. Photo: Carlo Maria Pensa

Wikimania, the official annual conference of the Wikimedia Foundation, brings together programmers, writers, editors and photographers from all over the world to discuss future projects.

Now in its 10th year, previous events have been held in Washington, Taipei, Hong Kong, London and Mexico City.

So the surprise selection of Esino Lario, an alpine town in the Lombardy province of Lecco, was a massive coup, made possible thanks to three years of hard work by volunteers who put the proposal together.

However, the town is up in arms after being told it needs to accommodate 60 refugees in addition to the 41 who already live there. 

The order came after a landlord agreed to host them in one of his properties, earning him €35 a night for each person.

But mayor Pietro Pensa, 31, fears the dream of hosting the event, which will bring around 1,000 people to the town, is “at risk of disappearing” because volunteers will be busy helping to integrate the migrants, giving them little time to assist with the preparations.

The town will receive €200,000 in grants from the Wikimedia Foundation and a further €80,000 from the Cariplo Foundation, which assists projects that bring social value.

Pensa hopes to spend the cash on reopening the town's long-derelict cinema, installing fibre-optic broadband and redeveloping the old museum as well as the gym and library.

These are lofty plans for such limited funds and the only way the project can work is through the contribution of volunteers.

However, residents are concerned that the new arrivals will hinder their capacity to carry out the work needed to prepare the town.

While many of the 41 migrants in Esino have been helping to clean the streets and fix benches, this is largely thanks to the work local volunteers are doing to help them integrate, Pensa said.

Asked why the extra migrants couldn't help with the preparations, Pensa spoke about the reality of housing migrants in a small town.

“They are not so independent and need a lot of help. Each migrant will have a volunteer with them for two or three hours a day,” he told The Local. 

Volunteers in Esino work to help the migrants integrate, aiding them with simple tasks as well as lending a hand with the Italian language and culture.

The new arrivals will mean migrants make up more than ten percent of the town's population: a decision that has baffled Pensa. 

“At (nearby) Lecco there is not one refugee in a town of 70,000,” he said.

But Esino is a town of fighters and the big-hearted volunteers aren't ready to give up yet.

“We'll do everything we can to host the convention,” said Pensa. “We want to show everybody how great Esino is by hosting the best and craziest Wikimania convention possible.”