Wikipedia has disabled its Italian website in protest against a draft law that would force online publications to issue corrections to articles within 48 hours or face a fine.
The legislation proposed by Silvo Berlusconi's government would also prevent newspapers from publishing transcripts of wire taps while criminal cases are in their preliminary stage.
The Italian prime minister, coincidentally, was recently embarrassed when a newspaper published transcripts revealing alleged details of his sex life.
In a statement on its Italian site, Wikipedia said the "very pillars" on which the site had been built - neutrality, freedom, and verifiability of its contents - would be "heavily compromised" by the law.
Wikipedia are concerned that the legislation creates a requirement that all websites publish corrections on articles that a reader believes is detrimental to his or her image without any independent adjudication.
"Hence, anyone who feels offended by any content published on a blog, an online newspaper and, most likely, even on Wikipedia would have the right for a statement ("correction") to be shown, unaltered, on the page, aimed to contradict and disprove the allegedly harmful contents, regardless of the truthfulness of the information deemed as offensive, and its sources," Wikipedia said.
Italian bloggers would be liable for a 12,000 euro fine if they fail to correct "offensive" blog content within 48 hours. The cost would likely force bloggers to comply with the request rather than resist, as most do not have the backing of wealthy media companies.
Protesters gathered outside the Italian parliament on Wednesday, with tapes over their mouths, to protest the bill.