Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick




Why Sue Over Wikipedia Posts?

from the seems-like-a-bad-idea dept

There's a post on Digg getting plenty of attention, about a Catholic school in Omaha, Nebraska that was upset about somethings written on the Wikipedia page about the school -- and decided to sue. While it's not clear from the Digg post, they did not sue Wikipedia, but rather went after the unidentified people who posted the comments on Wikipedia. Oddly, while it was up just a few hours ago, the news page the Digg post refers to has disappeared. Another version of the story is available at the Omaha World-Herald, but requires Bugmenot to login. The World-Herald article is quite balanced, explaining accurately why the school cannot and should not sue Wikipedia.

However, a larger question may be whether or not the school should sue whoever (disgruntled students, most likely) made the original, contested, entries. The school claims that it "suffered general damages" due to the content of the postings -- though, it's difficult to see how anyone in their right mind would take the complaints as anything serious. They seemed like typical childish defacements from annoyed students, probably from a competing school: "It's (sic) tuition is ridiculously high, too. Not to mention you get an awful education there. They put more emphasis on sports than they do education. No wonder almost all kids there are complete idiots." The easiest thing to do would have just been for officials from the school to delete those statements from the Wikipedia page. However, by going the legal route, they've suddenly given those statements a lot more prominence, a la the Streisand Effect. Prior to this, very few people would have known about what Wikipedia had said about the school. Now, many more will. If the school was really upset about the "damages" these statements would cause, then why not just edit them out? Suing only calls that much more attention to them.

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  1. identicon
    JerseyRich, 24 Jul 2006 @ 5:10am

    WHAT PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND

    ...is the Streisand Effect. If they did, they would just sign up for a free Wikipedia account, and take care of business.

    I and the company I work for were slandered in a small, local newsrag, a few weeks ago. I was indignant! My first reaction was to write a letter to the editor in response. But then I remembered the Streisand Effect (thanks to Mike and TD), and just left it alone. The issue died with that issue (no pun intended), and life went on.

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