Greek Politician Tries To Use Defamation Lawsuit To Gag Wikipedia, Is Rewarded With Streisand Effect

from the seems-fair dept

For those of us that tend to take Wikipedia and the way it works for granted, it comes as something of a shock to encounter someone who clearly doesn’t understand it at all. That seems to be the case in a lawsuit brought by the Greek politician and academic Theodore Katsanevas against the Greek Wikipedia user and administrator Dimitris Liourdis, also known as “Diu”. A post on the Wikimedia blog explains the situation:

Mr. Katsanevas complains that the Greek-language Wikipedia article about him contains some unflattering statements. Instead of addressing his concerns with the Greek-language Wikipedia community through the appropriate processes, Mr. Katsanevas chose to file a lawsuit against Diu.

The controversial statements in question reference the will of Andreas Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece and father-in-law of Mr. Katsanevas. The will allegedly characterized Mr. Katsanevas as a “disgrace” to the family and reportedly accused Mr. Katsanevas of “attempting to politically exploit George Papandreou”, also a former Prime Minister of Greece. The statements were properly sourced and in accordance with Wikipedia policies.

It’s not clear why Katsanevas thinks Diu had anything to do with the passage in question or, indeed, how he found out Diu’s name, as this detailed article about the case on The Press Project points out:

An interesting question is how Mr Katsanevas identified the particular administrator. The latter has not made his personal information public. Despite this, the administrator told us in a telephone telephone interview that Mr Katsanevas had located him in 2009 at which point he had sent him notice demanding parts of the wikipedia entry be deleted.

Fortunately — and wisely, given the broader implications of this attack on Wikipedia’s editorial independence — the Wikimedia Foundation is standing behind Liourdis:

Diu faces serious monetary and criminal penalties as a result of Mr. Katsanevas’s lawsuit. We have offered — and Diu has accepted — assistance through our Legal Fees Assistance Program.

The case won’t reach the courts until 2016, but in a preliminary hearing the Greek judge too seemed not to grasp how Wikipedia functioned :

In an e-mail interview with Ars [Technica], Liourdis described the situation in the courtroom last week. The hearing lasted just a few minutes, he wrote, and only the lawyers were allowed to speak. “My lawyer tried to explain [to the] judge how Wikipedia works and that I couldn’t effectively remove the text,” he wrote. “Anybody who knows how Wikipedia works knows that if he removes … a text, which is verified by reliable sources, finally he will [be] banned from the project. We pointed that [out], but unfortunately she didn’t understand.”

Liourdis followed the judge’s instructions to delete the text, but sure enough, it was quickly replaced.

Techdirt readers will not be surprised to learn that this attempt to gag Wikipedia not only failed, but also provoked a familiar online response from the Wikipedia community:

The administrator noted that the lawsuit and publicity had produced a Streisand effect and that the original Greek article was now hosted in translation on multiple Wikipedias in English, Catalan, Polish, Yakut, French, German, Dutch, Spanish and Italian.

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Comments on “Greek Politician Tries To Use Defamation Lawsuit To Gag Wikipedia, Is Rewarded With Streisand Effect”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Making laws for luddites...

No, a better idea would be to make politicians, like employees in any other field, take competence tests before they’re allowed to work on or rule on a given subject.

So if a politician wants make or vote on a law affecting some field or piece of technology, they first have to take a competency test, geared towards the average knowledge of a person in that field or someone familiar with the technology in question. If they fail it, they cannot write, propose, or vote on legislation dealing with the field/tech in question.

Likewise for judges, if the defense or prosecution feels that knowledge and/or familiarity with the field/tech in question is likely to have a significant impact on the case, they can ask that the judge take a competency test regarding it.

Should they pass, case continues on as normal, but should they fail, they can either order a stay, in which they have 2-4 weeks to study up on the field/tech and retake the test, or they are forced to recuse themselves from the case, and it’s passed to another judge, who also has to take the competency test before being able to preside over the case, with the process continuing until a judge knowledgeable in the field is able to pass the test, and has shown to have enough understanding of the field/tech in question to rule on it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I found this quote, and it seems so apropos to all these Streisand Effect cases lately that I couldn’t help but share it:

“….it is not wise to keep the fire going under a slander unless you can get some large advantage out of keeping it alive. Few slanders can stand the wear of silence.”

-Mark Twain

In this case it’s less helpful, as the speech in question is well-sourced and not slander, however it’s advice that I think most of these people really need to take to heart.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Despite how the older generation seems to treat the Internet these days, the web not a passing fad or children’s toy. Like it or not, It’s a ubiquitous, almost critical part of society in the 21st century. People need to get up to date with the world, or at least understand how Wikipedia works. If parts of an article have reputable sources, they’ll keep popping back up on Wikipedia no matter how many times you edit it.

More importantly, has our Streisandee’s Wikipedia page been locked yet so no one else can try and remove the unflattering statements about him?

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