FBI Orders Wikipedia to Remove Bureau’s Official Seal

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s motto is “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.” With its latest action against Wikipedia, however, it may have compromised its third virtue. In a letter sent to Wikimedia Foundation, the FBI demanded that Wikipedia remove the Bureau’s official seal from its site, which is posted under an article about the FBI. The letter stated that “The FBI has not authorized use of the FBI seal on Wikipedia” and “the inclusion of a high quality graphic of the FBI seal on Wikipedia is particularly problematic, because it facilitates both deliberate and unwitting violations of these restrictions by Wikipedia users.” If Wikipedia doesn’t comply with these requests, it may find itself in court.

In response, Mike Godwin, general counsel for Wikimedia Foundation, pointed out the Bureau’s “creative editing” of the law. Godwin wrote a letter back arguing that Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, and has no intentions of producing fake badges or identification cards with the “intent to deceive,” which the pertinent law was established to prevent. Godwin added: “I hope you will agree that the adjective ‘problematic,’ even if it were truly applicable here, is not semantically identical to ‘unlawful.'”

FBI spokesman, William Carter, told The New York Times these kinds of letters are sent out “from time to time,” most likely meaning it was a slow day at the office when the original letter was sent.