Masked Wikipedia Author Revealed

from the not-so-threatening-after-all dept

In the last two weeks there’s been a huge amount of attention paid to John Seigenthaler Sr.’s bashing of Wikipedia, after someone wrote an obviously false story about him in his bio — even to the point where Seigenthaler (a well known advocate of the First Amendment) has talked about having laws changed to put the burden of proof being placed on the accused, rather than accusers. As we said earlier, the story is nothing new. People can write whatever they want in Wikipedia — and thus, you should always be willing to look at the info critically. However, that doesn’t discount the overall value of Wikipedia, as some like to imply. As this story took on a life of its own, the main issue was who wrote the false bio of Seigenthaler, and now someone has come forward, saying it was a joke for a friend, and he has apologized directly to Seigenthaler, saying he meant no harm. Seigenthaler, to his credit, has accepted the apology and says nothing more should be done (and also asked that the man be reinstated to his job — which he quit to avoid having the negative publicity reflect badly on his employer). However, this whole episode still raises a few questions. We’re still confused why Seigenthaler felt the need to spend so much time tracking down the person and then writing a public editorial about the issue when, instead, he could have just corrected the story. At the same time, for all the people talking about how much harm the site has done — it’s not clear what actual “harm” was actually caused by this particular article being on the site. Finally, for all the worries about “anonymous” writers, it didn’t turn out to be all that difficult to track down this particular writer. Update: Digg points to an apparent attempt to build a class action lawsuit against Wikipedia. Hopefully, it’s satire, but these days, you never know. Wikipedia is clearly protected under existing laws. If you’re providing an open forum, it’s the individuals who are responsible for the content they post, not the forum owner.

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Comments on “Masked Wikipedia Author Revealed”

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kingmanor says:

Track Down???

Mike must have forgot the reason why “it didn’t turn out to be all that difficult to track down this particular writer” was because he voluntarily came forward himself! Seigenthaler’s op-ed was about how the courts were preventing him from finding out who it was. It seems if the culprit didn’t come forward, he might never have found out. The conclusion to this entry just seems completely against the facts mentioned a few sentences before. The next Wikipedia scammer who doesn’t come forward, and who doesn’t use his home computer (Adam Curry) may be very dificult to identify indeed.

Bob says:

The why

“We’re still confused why Seigenthaler felt the need to spend so much time tracking down the person and then writing a public editorial about the issue when, instead, he could have just corrected the story.”

Because he likely wanted it confirmed in the public’s mind, without a doubt, the truth of the matter. If he had taken it upon himself to simply correct the story without clearing his name as well, there would have been a segment of the population, like the conspiracist bloggers or something, who would’ve gone on and on till doomsday rehashing these tiring allegations. Now, it’s been put to rest.. which is good for everyone.

It’s also a good lesson for others who like to post their b.s. to wiki, thinking they won’t be found out.

Still, keeping wiki public and open to all is important, and the sole reason the concept has been so successful. If too many restrictions are put in place on the ability to post content, based solely on fallout from silly debacles like this, the whole idea of wiki will be short lived.

Nilt says:

Just an ad revenue generator?

My assumption after looking at the Wikipedia class action site is that it’s one of 2 things.

  • The site is sponsored and maintained by people who remain ignorant of the law regarding public forums.
  • A blatant attempt to generate traffic for their Google ads.

Considering the lack of examples where Wikipedia actually harmed anyone themselves, I suspect the latter. The only example listed is Seigenthaler’s, which would tend to drive their traffic from searching for him when looking into the story.

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