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The link I sent out earlier didn't seem to work for some people. Here  
is both the link and the article:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-11-29-wikipedia- 
edit_x.htm


A false Wikipedia 'biography'
By John Seigenthaler
"John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert  
Kennedy in the early 1960's. For a brief time, he was thought to have  
been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and  
his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven."

 Wikipedia

This is a highly personal story about Internet character assassination.  
It could be your story.

I have no idea whose sick mind conceived the false, malicious  
"biography" that appeared under my name for 132 days on Wikipedia, the  
popular, online, free encyclopedia whose authors are unknown and  
virtually untraceable. There was more:

"John Seigenthaler moved to the Soviet Union in 1971, and returned to  
the United States in 1984," Wikipedia said. "He started one of the  
country's largest public relations firms shortly thereafter."

At age 78, I thought I was beyond surprise or hurt at anything negative  
said about me. I was wrong. One sentence in the biography was true. I  
was Robert Kennedy's administrative assistant in the early 1960s. I  
also was his pallbearer. It was mind-boggling when my son, John  
Seigenthaler, journalist with NBC News, phoned later to say he found  
the same scurrilous text on Reference.com and Answers.com.

I had heard for weeks from teachers, journalists and historians about  
"the wonderful world of Wikipedia," where millions of people worldwide  
visit daily for quick reference "facts," composed and posted by people  
with no special expertise or knowledge  and sometimes by people with  
malice.

At my request, executives of the three websites now have removed the  
false content about me. But they don't know, and can't find out, who  
wrote the toxic sentences.

Anonymous author

I phoned Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder and asked, "Do you ... have  
any way to know who wrote that?"

"No, we don't," he said. Representatives of the other two websites said  
their computers are programmed to copy data verbatim from Wikipedia,  
never checking whether it is false or factual.

Naturally, I want to unmask my "biographer." And, I am interested in  
letting many people know that Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible  
research tool.

But searching cyberspace for the identity of people who post spurious  
information can be frustrating. I found on Wikipedia the registered IP  
(Internet Protocol) number of my "biographer"- 65-81-97-208. I traced  
it to a customer of BellSouth Internet. That company advertises a phone  
number to report "Abuse Issues." An electronic voice said all  
complaints must be e-mailed. My two e-mails were answered by identical  
form letters, advising me that the company would conduct an  
investigation but might not tell me the results. It was signed "Abuse  
Team."

Wales, Wikipedia's founder, told me that BellSouth would not be  
helpful. "We have trouble with people posting abusive things over and  
over and over," he said. "We block their IP numbers, and they sneak in  
another way. So we contact the service providers, and they are not very  
responsive."

After three weeks, hearing nothing further about the Abuse Team  
investigation, I phoned BellSouth's Atlanta corporate headquarters,  
which led to conversations between my lawyer and BellSouth's counsel.  
My only remote chance of getting the name, I learned, was to file a  
"John or Jane Doe" lawsuit against my "biographer." Major  
communications Internet companies are bound by federal privacy laws  
that protect the identity of their customers, even those who defame  
online. Only if a lawsuit resulted in a court subpoena would BellSouth  
give up the name.

Little legal recourse

Federal law also protects online corporations  BellSouth, AOL, MCI  
Wikipedia, etc.  from libel lawsuits. Section 230 of the  
Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996, specifically states that  
"no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be  
treated as the publisher or speaker." That legalese means that, unlike  
print and broadcast companies, online service providers cannot be sued  
for disseminating defamatory attacks on citizens posted by others.

Recent low-profile court decisions document that Congress effectively  
has barred defamation in cyberspace. Wikipedia's website acknowledges  
that it is not responsible for inaccurate information, but Wales, in a  
recent C-Span interview with Brian Lamb, insisted that his website is  
accountable and that his community of thousands of volunteer editors  
(he said he has only one paid employee) corrects mistakes within  
minutes.

My experience refutes that. My "biography" was posted May 26. On May  
29, one of Wales' volunteers "edited" it only by correcting the  
misspelling of the word "early." For four months, Wikipedia depicted me  
as a suspected assassin before Wales erased it from his website's  
history Oct. 5. The falsehoods remained on Answers.com and  
Reference.com for three more weeks.

In the C-Span interview, Wales said Wikipedia has "millions" of daily  
global visitors and is one of the world's busiest websites. His  
volunteer community runs the Wikipedia operation, he said. He funds his  
website through a non-profit foundation and estimated a 2006 budget of  
"about a million dollars."

And so we live in a universe of new media with phenomenal opportunities  
for worldwide communications and research  but populated by volunteer  
vandals with poison-pen intellects. Congress has enabled them and  
protects them.

When I was a child, my mother lectured me on the evils of "gossip." She  
held a feather pillow and said, "If I tear this open, the feathers will  
fly to the four winds, and I could never get them back in the pillow.  
That's how it is when you spread mean things about people."

For me, that pillow is a metaphor for Wikipedia.

John Seigenthaler, a retired journalist, founded The Freedom Forum  
First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. He also is a former  
editorial page editor at USA TODAY.



Begin forwarded message:

> From: "Jan Radford" <jalera1@bigpond.net.au>
> Date: December 3, 2005 8:23:12 AM CST
> To: "Floyd" <calaf@charter.net>
> Subject: Re: [LM_NET] A false Wikipedia 'biography'
>
> getting a 'not found' message from that site.  Did you copy?
> Jan Radford at Delany College
> Sydney Australia
>
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Floyd" <calaf@CHARTER.NET>
> To: <LM_NET@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
> Sent: Saturday, December 03, 2005 2:50 AM
> Subject: [LM_NET] A false Wikipedia 'biography'
>
>
>> Didn't know if this has been posted already or not. This is a   
>> frightening editorial in "USA Today".
>>
>> http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-11-29-wikipedia-  
>> edit_x.htm
>>
>> Floyd Pentlin
>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 
>> -- -----
>> Region III Director, American Association of School Librarians
>> ...................................................................... 
>> .. ........................
>> Adjunct Professor, Library Science Faculty, Central Missouri State  
>> University
>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 
>> -- ----
>> ANSWER MACHINE/FAX: 660.747.0683 - E-MAIL: calaf@charter.net
>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 
>> -- ----
>> "A man's home is his castle, in a manor of speaking."
>>
>> --------------------------------------------------------------------
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>

Floyd Pentlin
------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
-----
Region III Director, American Association of School Librarians
........................................................................ 
........................
Adjunct Professor, Library Science Faculty, Central Missouri State  
University
------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
----
ANSWER MACHINE/FAX: 660.747.0683 - E-MAIL: calaf@charter.net
------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
----
"A man's home is his castle, in a manor of speaking."

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