“Awareness that the Government may be watching chills associational and expressive freedoms. And the Government’s unrestrained power to assemble data that reveal private aspects of identity is susceptible to abuse.”

— Justice Sonia Sotomayor, US Supreme Court (2012)

On March 10, 2015, the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that supports Wikipedia and its sister projects, filed suit against the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), among others. The Foundation and its eight co-plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The lawsuit is a challenge to dragnet surveillance by the NSA, specifically the large-scale seizing and search of Internet communications frequently referred to as “Upstream” surveillance.

Privacy is one of our core values. We work hard to protect the information that users share and generate when they visit the Wikimedia projects. Last year, we implemented HTTPS to encrypt traffic to and from the Wikimedia projects to make this data and communications with users more secure. The Wikimedia Foundation’s aim in filing this suit is similar: to protect the rights of the Foundation and Wikimedia users around the world by ending Upstream mass surveillance. Wikipedia is one of the world’s largest collaborative free knowledge resources and receives hundreds of millions of unique visitors per month. Mass surveillance undermines privacy and free expression rights on the Internet and creates a chilling effect that threatens the future growth and well-being of the Wikimedia projects.

Learn more from our frequently asked questions.Frequently asked questions

Take action!

Spread the word:

  • I support @Wikimedia in its legal fight against #NSA surveillance. #StopSurveillance
  • Spread the word on Facebook

Timeline

July 10, 2008: President George W. Bush signs the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008 into law. The ACLU files Clapper v. Amnesty International USA in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, challenging the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

February 26, 2013: A divided U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 that plaintiffs in Clapper v. Amnesty International USA do not have standing to challenge the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 because they cannot not prove that they in particular have been spied on.

June 2013: Thousands of classified NSA documents are revealed – among them, a slide showing that the NSA had discussed targeting unencrypted Wikipedia traffic for surveillance.

May 9, 2015: The Wikimedia Foundation announces that it is signing the Necessary and Proportionate Principles for the application of human rights to surveillance.

March 10, 2015: The Foundation and co-plaintiffs file suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland against the NSA to challenge Upstream mass surveillance.

May 29, 2015: The U.S. government files its anticipated motion to dismiss our suit.

June 12, 2015: Wikimedia begins rollout of HTTPS protocol to encrypt traffic by default, as part of our efforts to protect user privacy.

June 19, 2015: Our lawyers at the ACLU file an amended version of the original complaint in response to the government’s motion.

August 6, 2015: The government moves to dismiss our amended complaint on standing grounds.

September 3, 2015: Our lawyers at the ACLU file an opposition to the government’s motion to dismiss. Leading organizations representing libraries and booksellers file an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Wikimedia and its co-plaintiffs. Law professors who specialize in First Amendment law file another amicus curiae brief.

September 25, 2015: First hearing in Wikimedia v. NSA takes place in Alexandria, Virginia.

October 23, 2015: The district court grants the government’s motion to dismiss Wikimedia v. NSA.

December 15, 2015: ACLU files a notice of appeal in Wikimedia v. NSA.

February 17, 2016: ACLU files an opening brief with the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

February 24, 2016: Six new amicus curiae briefs are filed with the Fourth Circuit on behalf of Wikimedia and its co-plaintiffs. Authors include law professors who specialize in civil procedure and federal courts, law professors who specialize in First Amendment law, prominent computer scientists and technologists, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the U.S. Justice Foundation.

April 11, 2016: Government files response to our appeal brief.

May 6, 2016: ACLU files our reply to the government’s response.

December 8, 2016: Oral arguments at the Fourth Circuit.

May 23, 2017: The Fourth Circuit partially overturns the District Court ruling, holding that the Wikimedia Foundation has standing to pursue the case, but other plaintiffs do not.

October 17, 2017: Initial discovery phase begins.

April 17, 2018: Initial discovery phase ends.

August 20, 2018: The district court declines the Foundation’s motion to review the government’s allegedly privileged materials in camera.

Our work so far

From the Wikimedia Blog

March 10, 2015

Wikimedia v. NSA: Wikimedia Foundation files suit against NSA to challenge upstream mass surveillance

Photo by Roland Meinecke, licensed under a Free Art license.

June 12, 2015

Securing access to Wikimedia sites with HTTPS

Image by Electronic Frontier Foundation, licensed under CC BY 3.0.

July 1, 2015

ACLU files amended complaint on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation

Photo by Tim Evanson, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

September 4, 2015

Wikimedia opposes government’s motion to dismiss Wikimedia v. NSA

Photo by Matt H. Wade, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

September 28, 2015

Wikimedia v. NSA update: first hearing

Photo by Joe Gratz, public domain.

October 23, 2015

District court grants government’s motion to dismiss Wikimedia v. NSA, appeal expected

Photo by Tim Evanson, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

December 15, 2015

Notice of appeal filed in Wikimedia v. NSA

Photo by Acroterion, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

February 17, 2016

Appeal filed in Wikimedia v. NSA

Photo by Phil Roeder, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

May 9, 2016

Reply filed in Wikimedia v. NSA appeal

Photo by Woody Hibbard, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

October 17, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA update: appeal hearing scheduled

Photo by Droid Gingerbread, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Richmond Federal Appeals Court and skyline

December 9, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA update: Hearing at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals

Photo by Acroterion, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Richmond Federal Appeals Court and skyline

May 23, 2017

Victory at the Fourth Circuit: Court of Appeals allows Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA to proceed

Photo by Blogtrepreneur, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

National Security Agency

June 23, 2017

Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA: Why we’re here and where we’re going

Photo by Trevor Paglen, licensed under CC-0.

National Security Agency

August 23, 2018

Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA: Court rules for government on evidentiary issue

Photo by Tim Evanson, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.