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Bid to censor page triggers stampede

Paris - Internet users were flocking on Sunday to a web entry about a French military radio complex after the country's intelligence services allegedly tried to shut it down.

The page about the facility in Pierre-sur-Haute (http://dpaq.de/EoBAc) in south-east France had become the most visited page on the French version of online encyclopedia Wikipedia since the allegations of attempted state censorship emerged on Saturday, according to web monitor Wikiscan.

Screenshot of the Wikipedia page

The allegations were made by the Wikimedia Foundation which runs Wikipedia.

In a statement accusing the government of censorship the foundation explained that the French domestic intelligence agency DCRI had approached it in March to demand that it delete the entry, saying the page contained classified information.

Considering the DCRI had not provided enough information to back its demand, Wikimedia refused to grant the request.

Dissatisfied with that response, the government upped the ante, according to Wikimedia.

On April 4, the DCRI summoned a French Wikipedia volunteer to the agency's office and ordered him to delete the article on the spot “on the understanding that he would have been held in custody and prosecuted if he did not comply.”

“Under pressure, he had no other choice than to delete the article, despite explaining to the DCRI this is not how Wikipedia works,” the foundation said, condemning state “bullying” and “acts of censorship.”

“Intimidation is not the right way to enforce military secrecy in France, and the Internet is not a place that has to be regulated in such a brutal manner,” the foundation added.

The interior ministry has confirmed that the state requested the page be withdrawn for “national security” reasons, but denied the volunteer had been bullied, saying he had been merely “warned of the risk of legal consequences,” AFP reported.

The state's strong-armed approach has had unintended consequences.

In the past 24 hours the French site, which has been reactivated by a Wikipedia volunteer in Switzerland has been viewed 73 000 times, according to Wikiscan.

The page, which describes the site and includes a mention of underground defences against a chemical, biological or nuclear attack, has also been translated into English. - Sapa-dpa

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