Wikimedia Foundation Ruled Liable For Wikipedia Content Via German Court

A German court has ruled that the Wikimedia Foundation is responsible for content contained in Wikipedia articles, which any third-party can alter. Though the Higher Regional Court of Stuttgart has held the foundation liable in its ruling, it does not require Wikimedia to fact-check articles before they are made live, which would have resulted in a substantial burden given the vast size of Wikipedia and relatively small size of the Foundation.

The ruling was originally passed back in October after an appeal over a libel case, with the ruling just now being made available for public reading. Under the ruling, Wikimedia is responsible for checking articles that have been flagged or otherwise received a complaint, and if the check turns up false data, the content needs to be removed. A false quote, for example, would need to be checked and ultimately removed if someone brought it to Wikimedia's attention.

The legal debacle started when an unspecified individual hit Wikimedia with a libel lawsuit that alleged a Wikipedia article said he held unsavvory attitudes towards sensitive topics related to children, and that he had on television given the Nazi salute. The article reportedly went on to state that this individual, who owns a German television station, intimidated and brainwashed his workers and held a cultish atmosphere at work.

Wikimedia was held liable for the first two claims, with the others coming from a cited newspaper article. For its part, the court hasn't given the Wikimedia Foundation guidelines on fact-checking, but was instructed to delete the passages in question and to face a penalty if it fails to do so. How penalities will work in future instances is unclear.