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This page is a translated version of the page Wikimedia Foundation v. National Security Agency/FAQ and the translation is 44% complete.

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On March 10, 2015, the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit 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.


Our lawsuit challenges the NSA’s unfounded, large-scale search and seizure of international internet communications, frequently referred to as "upstream" surveillance. Using upstream surveillance, the NSA seizes and copies virtually all internet communications flowing across the network of high-capacity cables, switches, and routers that make up the internet's "backbone." This backbone connects the Wikimedia global community of readers and contributors to Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects, such as Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata.


美国政府使用了2008年外国情报监控法案(简称监控法案)修正案(简称修正法案)(见U.S.C. § 1881a)来为范围广泛的大规模“上游”监控进行辩解。根据修正法案,“司法部长以及国家情报局长可以联合授权,在授权有效之日起一年的时间内将合情合理地相信处于美国境外的非美国人员作为目标来获得外国情报信息。” 这一法律仅仅要求“合情合理的相信”某一非美国人员处于美国境外。没有必要表明目标是一个外国特务,更不要说是恐怖分子了。这一法律的目的是获得“外国情报信息”,而这是一个非常宽泛的概念。我们相信,在广义上解释这一法律、允许进行上游监控是违反宪法的。




Wikipedia is a living resource for knowledge. It is written by volunteers around the globe, in hundreds of languages. It reflects the world around us and changes to embody current events, notable individuals, evolving theories, emerging art, and more. Wikipedia relies on the contributions of editors and the support of readers to evolve and grow. If readers and editors are deterred from participating in Wikipedia because of concerns about surveillance, the health of Wikipedia as a resource to the world is jeopardized.

Who is paying for this lawsuit? Will it be expensive for Wikimedia?

We are very fortunate to have pro bono representation from world-class attorneys at the ACLU. We are also supported by the top-notch attorneys at Cooley, LLP, who are now representing us pro bono as well. Because legal representation is often the most expensive aspect of civil litigation, we expect the cost to the Foundation to be relatively very small. However, we do foresee the use of limited, preallocated staff and budget resources to ensure that we put forth the best case possible before the District of Maryland and U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.


Privacy is a core value of the Wikimedia movement. From its beginning, Wikipedia has allowed users to keep their identities private through the use of anonymous or pseudonymous editing. This has been reinforced by the Wikimedia Foundation’s firm commitment to protecting the privacy and data of its users through legal and technical means. Privacy makes freedom of expression possible, sustains freedom of inquiry, and allows for freedom of information and association. Knowledge flourishes where privacy is protected.

Why did Wikimedia join this lawsuit against the NSA?

Our role at the Wikimedia Foundation is to protect Wikipedia, its sister projects, and the Wikimedia community of users. This means providing our users with the right conditions to facilitate their work, and protecting them when necessary. Defending the privacy of our editors, readers, and community is paramount to us. We believe privacy is essential to facilitating and advancing free knowledge.


One of the NSA documents revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden specifically identifies Wikipedia's HTTP traffic as a target for surveillance alongside several other major websites like CNN.com, Gmail, and Facebook. The previously secret slide declares that monitoring these sites can allow NSA analysts to learn “nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet.” In addition, a second NSA slide, published in July 2015, instructs analysts on how to use search strings containing the words “wikipedia” and “wikimedia” on HTTP traffic. In June 2015, the Wikimedia Foundation implemented HTTPS to encrypt traffic to and from the Wikimedia projects to make data and communications with users more secure.


The Wikimedia Foundation takes privacy very seriously, which is why we find the NSA’s upstream mass surveillance so troubling. In June, 2015 we implemented the HTTPS protocol by default to protect user privacy by encrypting traffic on Wikimedia sites. You do not need to create an account or login to read or edit Wikipedia or the other Wikimedia sites. If you do decide to create an account, you can choose any username you like -- we don’t require real names, email addresses, or any other personally identifying information, and we never sell your data. When law enforcement agencies or governments request data about our users, we push back, and ensure that they have followed the law and our stringent rules regarding such requests.

Why did the district court dismiss the case?

The district court Judge, T.S. Ellis III, dismissed the case on standing grounds. Specifically, the court found that our complaint did not plausibly allege that the NSA was specifically monitoring Wikimedia communications. In so doing, the court referenced a previous decision, Clapper v. Amnesty International, in which the Supreme Court of the United States found that a different set of plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge a different surveillance program. We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision, with regard to both the similarity of this case to Clapper and the wealth of evidence about government surveillance provided in our complaint. This is why we recently filed an appeal in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

What are your arguments on appeal?

Our opening appeal brief, filed February 17, 2016, argues that we have plausibly alleged that our communications are being intercepted and searched as part of the NSA’s upstream surveillance practices. The sheer number of our communications with users around the world, and the way in which this type of surveillance operates, make it a virtual certainty that our communications are captured and searched. Further, we make a procedural argument that the district court should have accepted as true our allegations at this early stage in the litigation, as required by Supreme Court precedent.