Wikimedia Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency alleging its mass surveillance program violates US laws on freedom of speech.
The legal action has also been filed against the US Department of Justice.
The legal action, co-signed by eight other organizations, seeks to end the NSA’s large-scale surveillance efforts.
The Foundation is the non-profit group that oversees the running of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia.
The Wikmedia Foundation said it was taking action against the NSA’s so-called “upstream” surveillance work which targets communication with people not in the US.
The scale of the monitoring carried out by the NSA has been revealed in documents made public by whistleblower Edward Snowden over the last two years. Some of those papers show the NSA tapped the net’s backbone network to siphon off data. The backbone is made up of high-speed cables that link big ISPs and key transit points on the net.
“By tapping the backbone of the internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy,” said Lila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, in a blogpost announcing the legal action.
Targeting the backbone means the NSA casts a “vast net” and inevitably scoops up data unrelated to any target and will also include domestic communications, violating the rules governing what the NSA can spy on, said Lila Tretikov.
Information in the Snowden papers revealed that Wikipedia has been explicitly targeted, said the blogpost.
“By violating our users’ privacy, the NSA is threatening the intellectual freedom that is central to people’s ability to create and understand knowledge,” said Lila Tretikov.
In an accompanying editorial published in the New York Times, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said he hoped the lawsuit would bring an “end to the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of Internet traffic”.
Other organizations joining the lawsuit include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Global Fund for Women.
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