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.

Filed Under: barbara bauerw, defamation, section 230, wikipedia
Companies: wikipedia

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  1. identicon
    Zephyros, 5 May 2008 @ 1:50pm

    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.

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