User:Chicocvenancio/When I was sued for editing Wikipedia

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

I write this today because this was an experience that marked my experience in Wikipedia. For years, my defining characteristic was the "man being sued by Gilmar Mendes". This has had professional impact in my life. And the personal toll has been immense. I'm incredibly glad the foundation has changed it's position on protecting editors from legal suits, but there is a long way to go before we can say that this movement protects its members.

Let me bring you a bit down memory lane, in 2012 a Brazilian Supreme Court Justice (Gilmar Mendes) decided he did not like my edits to his Wikipedia article and gave my name to a Folha de S.Paulo journalist.[1] After a note in the Folha column I published a few post in my personal blog trying to explain Wikipedia rules and my role in the case.[2][3][4] That was followed by a few posts from that blogger, Reinaldo Azevedo, criticizing my grammar in the blog post and stating that I receive money from the Workers Party to edit Wikipedia.[5][6][7]

A while later I received a subpoena from the Brazilian Federal Police about the criminal representation Justice Gilmar Mendes made against me for the crimes of calumny, injury and defamation. I had to make a statement to the Federal Police in Brasília accompanied by my lawyer. The investigador ("delegada"), the prosecutor, and the judge of the case concluded that there was no crime; that it was not me who edited the article with the excerpts in the complaint; that even if a crime was committed there was no evidence of intent; and notwithstanding those findings the article would fall on an exception to the crime due to its scientific and journalistic nature.[8]

At that time, I did not sue either the Supreme Court Justice or the right wing blogger. Mainly, I do not have that much faith in the Brazilian justice system. And I was alone in this struggle. WMF was fully briefed on the matter, but beside deciding to give no support, at some point decided that I should drop the contacts I had at the time in the foundation from the email thread. That was the point where I understood WMF thought of me on situation as a liability, not as an asset to be protected.

A few members of the community did volunteer to be witnesses on the case, and I'm incredibly grateful to them to this day, I still remember telling my mother how one member being in Canada all but guaranteed that the suit could not be concluded in time for me to do actual jail time. Others did start a discussion to blanket Portuguese Wikipedia and many did offer to pitch in with the legal costs.[9] I owe a debt of gratitude to these users.

Let's hope that when this happens again the movement is ready to protect the next victim.