Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales criticises injunctions

image captionJimmy Wales believes current privacy laws are ridiculous

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has waded into the debate over super-injunctions, saying current privacy laws are a "human rights violation".

The online encyclopaedia has fallen foul of UK privacy law in recent weeks, with details about those using super-injunctions appearing on the site.

Mr Wales told the BBC that such information would be removed because it did not come from a reliable source.

However, he said that might change if the stories ran in foreign newspapers.

"The Wikipedia community does not allow such things to come on the site unless there is a reliable source which currently there isn't because the newspapers aren't allowed to publish," he told the BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

But if they appeared in say the New York Times or a French newspaper he would run them, "without question".

US law

Mr Wales said his personal view was that privacy laws were "grave injustices and human rights violations".

"They should be done away with as quickly as possible. There should be no law constraining people from publishing legally obtained, factual information," he said.

Exceptions to this would be information that was life-threatening, such as troop movements.

"But we aren't talking about that. This is embarrassing facts about politicians and celebrities".

Wikipedia is owned by the US-based charity the WikiMedia Foundation and and is therefore subject to US law.

That is the same legal loophole that has allowed Twitter to continue publishing details about the private lives and subsequent super-injunctions of a range of celebrities.

Making mockery

It has said it will not identify the user who has been exposing the super-injunction gliterrati on the site, despite the fact that some of the details appear to be untrue.

Users worried by libellous tweets are advised to contact a lawyer.

Experts warned that the lawyers of celebrities could turn the tables, pressing for ISPs and firms such as Twitter to hand over the details of who is publishing comments on the site.

To do so they would need to obtain what is known as a Norwich Pharmacal order from a judge, the same process used by rights holders to force ISPs to hand over details about alleged illegal file-sharers.

"Celebrities could apply for Norwich Pharmacal orders against ISPs, Twitter or other parties holding data that may lead to the identification of a defendant," said solicitor Michael Forrester of law firm Ralli.

"The position is much more difficult when dealing with companies based in the US, such as Twitter and Google.

They may seek to avoid any applications on jurisdictional points and I suspect they may take a strong line with such applications, at least at first," he added.

The legislative net also appears to be closing in on social media sites with the UK culture secretary Jeremy Hunt saying places such as Twitter "made a mockery" of privacy laws.

"Whatever the laws tried to do on privacy, the internet is a very powerful force that you can't buck so we do need to look at it," he said at a Westminster lunch with journalists this week.

Meanwhile Twitter continues to ride high on the furore, recording its busiest day of online traffic this week.

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