“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.”
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.
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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.
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.
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.
May 30, 2019: Hearing at the District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, over Wikimedia Foundation’s standing to pursue our claims, and the government’s invocation of the State Secrets privilege.
Our work so far
From the Wikimedia Blog
March 10, 2015
June 12, 2015
July 1, 2015
September 4, 2015
October 23, 2015
December 15, 2015
May 9, 2016
October 17, 2016
December 9, 2016
May 23, 2017
June 23, 2017
August 23, 2018