Before Suing Wikipedia, Maybe Do A Wikipedia Search On Section 230 Of The CDA

from the you-don't-get-to-edit-the-law dept

A literary agent named Barbara Bauer has sued Wikipedia for defamation after someone put a page up on Wikipedia that was quite negative about her — with statements saying that she was the “dumbest of the twenty worst” agents, who has “no documented sales at all.” There’s no denying that the page on her was quite questionable, but that’s also why Wikipedians quickly deleted it. While it was brought back a few times, each time, it was quickly deleted as being a rather obvious “attack page.” As one Wikipedian wrote, the page was a bloody disgrace.

That said, it seems doubly wrongheaded to sue Wikipedia for this. First, as we’ve discussed many, many times, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) protects sites from the actions of their users. She has every right to go after whoever put up the page in the first place. But she shouldn’t be blaming Wikipedia for it — and any lawyer who would file this lawsuit should have known that and made it clear to her as well. Furthermore, this is a pure Streisand Effect situation. Before this, chances are that almost no one had seen the Wikipedia page. It was not up very long before it was deleted, and there probably just weren’t that many people searching for her. Yet now, thanks to this, her name will forever be associated both with the claims she’s trying to hide from the various news stories about this case, but those searching on her name will also see that she’s filing lawsuits like this one. Again, this is something that her lawyer should have known. Of course, there are Wikipedia pages on both Section 230 and The Streisand Effect. A quick look around Wikipedia may have helped to avoid this unnecessary lawsuit against Wikipedia.

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Comments on “Before Suing Wikipedia, Maybe Do A Wikipedia Search On Section 230 Of The CDA”

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Wireless Speech Recognition (profile) says:

A nuiscance settlement pursuit

Ms. Bauer, and every attorney she’s spoken with, undoubtedly knows such litigation is w/o basis. Nonetheless, there are probably a dozen lawyers (no offense to the industry intended) who’ll roll the dice on a contingency percentage.

(Sigh) Just a disappointing reminder..

The Team

Zephyros says:

Re: huh? dmca?

Just in case even this little bit is tl;dr for you, here’s a simple breakdown to answer your question: Section 230 of the DMCA states that they’re not liable for what other people post using their service.

If you’d bothered to read the “Section 230” Wiki page above, you might have found the answer to your question.

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Wikipedia satisfies the three-prong test they discuss.
1) They provide an interactive computer service.
2) The plaintiff is suing them as the publisher or speaker of the defamatory information.
3) The information was posted by another information content provider — whoever added the page.

Carolyn (profile) says:

Uh, a known scammer

Barbara Bauer has been busy suing every writer or agent or well, gee, anybody who dares to suggest there may be something fishy about her. This should come as no surprise to anyone who writes. Look through the archives at if you want to know about Barabara Bauer.

It’s really not fair to suggest that this is in any way a rational series of actions.

John Smith says:

I totally disagree

Bauer was cyberbullied, not only by the posters but by Wikipedia. Before she filed suit she wrote to them umpteen times on registered mail, etc. etc. The reply: We are going to put up your biography.
So Wikipedia administrators put up her biography, people who did not know anything about her.
They kept the bio up for over a year, not as you say taking it down. Your report is simply false.
Makes me wonder if you got a “donation” from Wikipedia to write this story.
At any rate, they only deleted it after process papers were served, and even tried to say she had not served the papers properly which just goes to show how cheap and irresponsible they truly are.
As for Judge Perri, she gave a truly bad example to the Rutgers students who bullied tyler Clemente on the internet by posting lewd videos.
In Bauer’s case, the posters posted lewd altered photos and videos of Bauer, made sexual slurs against her and her family members, some of whom where under age at the time. Wikipedia had the power, and they said “F you”to Bauer, since they had the power to ruin a life.
That is the type of Wikipedia we have. They take 10 million bucks from the Sloan Foundation so Jimmy Wales can run with the jet set and screw around with models and actresses. In my opinion, Wikipedia is the scum of the earth. May they choke on the 10 million they got from Sloan Foundation.

Tyler Smith says:

Writer Beware's Attorney Suspended for Cheating Steinbeck Estate

It seems so weird that a group of individuals like Writer Beware, whose attorney, Charles Petit, was actually being tried for fraud, at the same time they were lying about Bauer’s commercial sales to publishing companies would be quoted as an authority by one of your posters. It ended up he was suspended from practicing law in Illinois for defrauding the John Steinbeck estate. Writer Beware is made up of a bizarre group of sociopaths, and should not be taken seriously. They never showed up in court to prove the truth of any of their many lies, just hid under the cloak of “immunity.” That doesn’t inspire much confidence. Why did they not prove that Bauer’s Ph.D. was a fake like they had stated on their blogs and forums? Simply put, they couldn’t prove it because they are psychos whose brains are in their butts, talking with their asses and not their heads. And of course, the internet flunkies always say, “If it’s on the internet, it must be true.” Wikipedia loves that philosophy. It makes it easier for them to make propaganda and control people’s minds.

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