Wikipedia's Italian edition homepage has been shut down following the prospect of a new wiretap law from Italy's Prime Minister, forcing the Italian language Web site to be hidden with the possibility to be eventually deleted.

Users were directed to a message from The users of Wikipedia on Oct. 4 when logging onto the Italian homepage, which cited a looming law as the reason for the shutdown, which is currently temporary. The site could be permanently deleted if the law goes through in the Italian Parliament.

At this time, the Italian language Wikipedia may be no longer able to continue providing the service that over the years was useful to you, and that you expected to have right now, the Wikipedia message read. As things stand, the page you want still exists and is only hidden, but the risk is that soon we will be forced to actually delete it.

The law called DDL intercettazioni (Wiretapping Act) from Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlisconi is an attempt to gag bloggers from posting unfavorable remarks. Clauses in paragraph 29 of the Wiretapping Act give bloggers 48 hours to remove a post before being fined €12,000 if an offended party chooses to prosecute over offensive material.

The prospect of the wiretapping law has Wikipedia, whose content has always been user-generated, caving into civil liberty pressures and forcing its content to be censored or provide corrections to anything deemed offensive.

The obligation to publish on our site the correction as is...is an unacceptable restriction of the freedom and independence of Wikipedia, to the point of distorting the principles on which the Free Encyclopedia is based and this would bring to a paralysis of the 'horizontal' method of access and editing, putting -- in fact -- an end to its existence as we have known until today.

However, Wikipedia said it has always been a source available to be reviewed and modified by anyone. In addition, the new law does not outline what is deemed offensive and is solely based on the offended person's opinion without a third party review or discussion before the Web site is forced to issue a correction.

Hence, anyone who feels offended by any content published on a blog, an online newspaper and, most likely, even on Wikipedia can directly request the removal of such contents and its permanent replacement with a 'corrected' version, aimed to contradict and disprove the allegedly harmful contents, regardless of the truthfulness of the information deemed as offensive, and its sources, the message from Wikipedia read.

Wikipedia addressed in its message that every Italian citizen is protected by a clause which punishes for defamation.

In addition, Italian bloggers are enraged over their right, as listed in Article 21 of the Italian constitution, to free speech being taken away in an attempt to censor unfavorable content.

Wikipedia, a horizontal publication, fears that their rights are being squelched as well, as users will have to completely dodge giving information that could be deemed offensive, even if true.

With this announcement, we want to warn our readers against the risks arising from leaving to the arbitrary will of any party to enforce the alleged protection of its image and its reputation, Wikipedia wrote. Under such provisions, web users would be most probably led to cease dealing with certain topics or people, just to 'avoid troubles.' We want to be able to keep a free and open-to-all encyclopedia, because our articles are also your articles -- Wikipedia is already neutral, why neutralize it?