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.