Actor Ron Livingston Sues Wikipedia; He Should Use The Site To Look Up Section 230

from the research,-research,-research dept

I’ve been a fan of actor Ron Livingston for a while, so it’s disappointing to see him push forward with an obviously dead-in-the-water lawsuit against Wikipedia. Livingston is upset that someone keeps changing his Wikipedia entry to claim that he’s gay, when the actor (who recently got married) is pretty sure he’s not. Of course, the problem here is that there’s nothing that he can reasonably sue Wikipedia for. He’s trying “libel, invasion of privacy and for using his name and likeness without his permission.” None of these will stand, as all will quickly be dumped due to Section 230 of the CDA — which you can all read about on Wikipedia. Now, he might have a stronger argument if he actually sued the individual making these changes, rather than Wikipedia itself, but even then, it’s difficult to see the lawsuit getting very far. Update: In the comments people are saying that the UPI reporter got the story wrong, and the actual lawsuit is against the individual — though, again it’s difficult to see the lawsuit getting very far. So much for the “professional reporters” at an organization like UPI doing fact checking.

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Comments on “Actor Ron Livingston Sues Wikipedia; He Should Use The Site To Look Up Section 230”

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30 Comments
Laughingdragon (profile) says:

Wikipedia needs one privileged author in articles about living persons.

Dead people have no protection against slander. I think that should be posted on every article about a dead person.
For live people, it seems fair to me that that person should have an ability to post a paragraph statement.
Then, an actor being slandered could post to the world, “I’m being slandered in the open entry section of this article. If you want my lifestyle statement, beliefs statement, etc, see my website at xxx.sss.bbb.”
Or, a person being slandered could pay a service to re-post their version of a wiki-article every day on wikipedia. Any techie interested in creating such a service?

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Wikipedia isn’t a 230 entity, as their own staff does editing and corrections. “

That’s actually a fair point. They Powers That Be at WikiP can be ham-fisted in, e.g., delisting artistic movements that they are unfamiliar with as lacking import, while upholding entries for BBQ joints in South Africa that they like. This might turn out to be an important case in deciding which entities can claim 230 exemption.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“delisting artistic movements that they are unfamiliar with as lacking import, while upholding entries for BBQ joints in South Africa that they like.”

You mean delisting things promoted for the rich while listing things promoting promoted for the poor? They can’t do that can they? The rich MUST have ONLY their movements listed by FORCE OF LAW just like they do outside the Internet.

The PEOPLE can decide what they want to visit. If wikipedia chooses to list things that you don’t like then simply find some other pedia to go to. You don’t like that people are choosing an encyclopedia that disagrees with you so you want to force them into giving you an unlevel playing field? No thanks, start your own wiki and if people don’t like it no one else is to blame but you. But don’t go crying to the government that your stupid movement is getting ignored by the public because they choose wikipedia over your dumb wiki and hence you should get your opinion promoted by force of law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“delisting artistic movements that they are unfamiliar with as lacking import”

and besides, who are you to decide what movements are important and which ones aren’t? Only the ones that agree with you are important? If Wikipedia truly delists movements that are important to the people then the people will come to your retarded wiki instead. They ignore your wiki and go to wikipedia because your nonsense is not important.

As a side note, I’m not necessarily defending wikipedia and neither am I agreeing with what they’re doing. I’m just defending their right to promote a social movement that disagrees with you and ignore the ones that agree with you and I also support your right to put up whatever wiki you want and to do the same. and if people like your social movement they can voluntarily choose yours. If not, they can ignore yours and go to one they do like. You have no right to impose your stupid will on others just because you choose to disregard morality completely.

Anonymous Coward says:

As the article states, he is attempting libel (written, not verbal, therefore libel, not slander), however as a public figure, cases of libel and slander are harder to prosecute. He would have to show actual harm done from the Wikipedia entry to get anywhere with it, and somehow I doubt that he’s actually suffering from this. (Other than potential blisters on his refresh button finger while he’s staring at the computer screen)

adm says:

two points

1. Perhaps he is using the Streisand effect of the lawsuit to achieve his real end: no doubt he is more concerned about drawing attention to the fact that he isn’t gay than he is about gaining a monetary award or legal victory.

2. Later stories reported that he is suing the individual responsible for the efforts, not the entity behind Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Ron_Livingston

Alex Hagen says:

Mike, you are wrong

To be fair, it’s not entirely your fault, UPI is just flat out stupid. The original source of this story is TMZ, and UPI apparently has a major reading comprehension problem. He is not suing Wikipedia, he is suing the person who is posting the info.

http://www.tmz.com/2009/12/05/office-space-star-yo-wikipedia-im-not-gay/

Doctor Strange says:

Re: Mike, you are wrong

The original source of this story is TMZ, and UPI apparently has a major reading comprehension problem. He is not suing Wikipedia, he is suing the person who is posting the info.

If that’s the source report, then I agree that the UPI writer seems to have been the one that made the inference that the lawsuit was against Wikipedia specifically. To be fair, the original TMZ report was not really clear on who the person or entity being sued was; the headline “‘Office Space’ Star: Yo Wikipedia, I’m Not Gay!” implies that the target is Wikipedia, but the article doesn’t say one way or the other and the UPI author overreached in drawing a conclusion.

IANAL, but here’s a question: I understand that you can bring a lawsuit against a John/Jane Doe if they are anonymous, but until they are revealed who exactly do you sue? Do you have to somehow enjoin the site/company hosting the anonymous postings initially, or are they just listed as a third party in the suit or what?

signalsnatcher (profile) says:

Now if he was an Australian...

Now if he was an Australian he could sue Wikipedia and win – there is a precedence.

In December 2000 Barron’s online published an article that inluded remarks about Joseph Gutnik, an Australian financier, that he believed defamed him, so he sued Barron’s in the Supreme (ie: top civil) court in the Australian state of Victoria. where he lived and did business.

Barron’s challenged his right to sue for an article published on the Internet but the High Court of Australia (= US Supreme Court) unanimously upheld his right to sue, which he did and was awarded damages.

So in Australia you can sue for remarks published on a website outside Australia which may be viewed in Australia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dow_Jones_&_Co._Inc._v_Gutnick

Doctor Strange says:

Re: Re:

I think it would be amusing to point out that his personal belief that he is not gay is original research and therefore does not meet standards for inclusion in his article…

Actually this would probably be an issue for the hardcore Wikipedians.

This is related to the issue of the Wikipedia policy of verifiability:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth&em;that is, whether readers are able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether we think it is true.

As such, if whoever this stalker/jokester/whomever can get a “reputable” source (in the days of the Internet, that’s probably TMZ or better) to publish a story that Ron Livingston was gay, then it would be defensibly include-able in Wikipedia as a fact.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Except that the actor has already made it clear he isn’t gay (and I am sure hid wife would want to know if it is otherwise).

Wikipedia could have long since corrected the entry and locked it to avoid repeated defacings, but they don’t appear to have done it, which suggests they are tolerant of this behavior. It is also clear that Wikipedia has editorial control (ie, not a “230” host, but in fact an active participant in their own site) and as such, wide open for lawsuits.

I wish them luck, they will almost certainly come up on the losing end of the deal.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It is also clear that Wikipedia has editorial control (ie, not a “230” host, but in fact an active participant in their own site) and as such, wide open for lawsuits.

That is simply not true. As multiple lawsuits have shown, even if the service provider is an active participant — even to the point of having nearly full editorial control over what to publish, they still retain section 230 protections.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Except that the actor has already made it clear he isn’t gay

Yes, but the point is (if I understand correctly) Wikipedia rules would prevent him from editing the entry and saying in effect “Ron Livingston is not gay. Source: Ron Livingston”. More accurately, an editor would probably revert his change. They don’t even like people editing entries about themselves even if they have correctly cited independent sources. He might be able to get away with that if he had such a source, but he himself cannot be that source.

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