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Victims of Wikipedia biographies
MyWikiBiz, Author Your Legacy — Saturday March 08, 2014
Wikipedia lacks sufficient protection for their biographies of living people which has resulted in victims suffering real-world negative effects. Some of these have been documented by the media, while the details of others are kept only in the history of various Wikipedia pages. Despite these cases, Wikipedia, which is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, still fails to take every necessary measure to protect the subjects of biographies while forcing, with few exceptions, biographies on those who do not want them. This page will attempt to document cases to present to Wikipedia, Jimbo Wales and, if necessary, the media in order to force a significant and necessary change in the way Wikipedia handles its biographies of living people.
John Lawrence Seigenthaler is an American journalist, author and political figure. On May 26, 2005, a five-sentence attack article was created by an anonymous editor (later identified), which included the sentence "For a short time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven." The page remained on Wikipedia for more than four months, until a friend of Seigenthaler replaced the biography with one from Seigenthaler's Freedom Forum. This version was removed as copyright violation and replaced with a short, original biography. Seigenthaler contacted Jimbo Wales in October to have the false and defamatory material removed from the site. Although the material had been replaced with an appropriate biography, and the edits deleted from the history, the vandalized version of the page remained visible on mirror sites for several weeks following the removal on Wikipedia. On November 29 of that year, USA Today published an op-ed piece written by Seigenthaler about his experience. In the June 2007 issue of Reason, Seigenthaler stated that there were also comments made in edit summaries that he would not want his grandson to see.
As a result of this incident, Wikipedia blocked article creation from unregistered users as a way to prevent other similar occurrences.
Frank Urban "Fuzzy" Zoeller, Jr. is an American professional golfer and winner of the Bob Jones Award. On February 13, 2007, Zoeller sued Josef Silny & Associates, a Miami firm that evaluates and translates credentials for foreign nationals. The lawsuit alleged that defamatory edits were made to Zoeller's Wikipedia biography from a computer originating from the firm. The edits claimed that Zoeller had committed acts of prescription drug, alcohol, domestic and child abuse. Although the defendant said he would have a computer consultant investigate, no one was identified and Zoeller dropped the suit in December.
Altuğ Taner Akçam is a noted historian and sociologist from Turkey who was detained in the Montreal airport on February 16, 2007. Flying from the United States, Akçam was on his way to give a lecture at a Canadian university. According to Akçam, he was detained by Canadian authorities for four hours based on information obtained from an inaccurate, vandalized version of his Wikipedia biography. Edits made around December 24, 2006, stated that Akçam was a terrorist. On his return trip to the United states on February 18, he was again detained; this time at the US border. No reason was given to him for this detention. He encountered further disruption from various individuals during the rest of his 2007 lecture tour.
Catherine Crier is an American television personality, author, and former Dallas County Assistant District Attorney and judge. She has worked for CNN, ABC, Fox News Channel, and Court TV. On May 20, 2009, Crier filed a lawsuit against an unnamed party alleging the person knowingly cut and pasted information about a similarly named attorney, Catherine Shelton, and placed it in Crier's Wikipedia biography. This John Doe claimed that Crier had "been a murder suspect, a shoplifter, she's served jail time, she's been disbarred." Crier claims that, as a result of this misinformation placed in her Wikipedia biography, she has suffered "public hatred, contempt, and ridicule". She further claimed this inaccurate version "impeached [her] honesty, integrity, virtue, and reputation." She is suing for "lost wages, emotional distress and mental anguish".
Tom Brokaw is an American television journalist and author. He is best known as the former anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, which he left on December 1, 2004. In the latter part of Brokaw's tenure, NBC Nightly News became the most watched cable or broadcast news program in the United States. For five days in early 2009, his Wikipedia biography included the sentence: "He had been married to Meredith Lynn Auld (a former Miss South Dakota and author) from 1962 until 2007, when an alleged affair between Brokaw and Diane Sawyer ended their marriage." The wholly untrue claim was added by an IP on February 27, 2009. It was removed by another IP on March 2. Unlike the reactions of some of the other victims of vandalism to biographies on Wikipedia, when Brokaw and Sawyer were told of the incident, both had a good laugh, and Brokaw's rep noted, "This is beneath comment."
- ^ Page, Susan (December 11, 2005). "Author apologizes for fake Wikipedia biography". USA Today. Retrieved on January 29, 2009.
- ^ Seigenthaler, John (November 29, 2005). "A false Wikipedia 'biography'". USA Today. Retrieved on January 29, 2009.
- ^ Mangu-Ward, Katherine (June 2007). Reason, pp. 20-29.
- ^ Helm, Bert (December 14, 2005). "Wikipedia: "A Work in Progress" ". Business Week. Retrieved on January 29, 2009.
- ^ "Golfer Zoeller sues law firm for Wikipedia posting". Miami Herald Online, February 22, 2007.
- ^ "Golfer Sues Over Vandalized Wikipedia Page". TheSmokingGun.com, February 22, 2007.
- ^ a b "Robert Fisk: Caught in the deadly web of the internet". The Independent, April 21, 2007. Retrieved on January 29, 2009.
- ^ Paul, Jay (July 22, 2007). "A question of authority". CBC News. Retrieved on January 29, 2009.
- ^ Cole, Juan (April 14, 2007). "Detained in Two Worlds: The Taner Akçam Story", contains "The Circle Closes In: A shameful campaign" by Taner Akçam. JuanCole.com. Retrieved on January 29, 2009.
- ^ Weiss, Debra Cassens (May 22, 2009). "Judge-Turned-Journalist Files Wikipedia Defamation Complaint in Her Old Court". ABA Journal. Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
- ^ Wilonsky, Robert (May 21, 2009). "Catherine Crier Takes a Dallas "John Doe" to Court Over ... Her Wikipedia Page". Dallas Observer. Retrieved on June 3, 2009.
- ^ a b "Tom Brokaw a rogue on wacky-pedia". NY Daily News, March 15, 2009. Retrieved on August 14, 2009.
- ^ Anonymous editor (February 27, 2009). Edit to Tom Brokaw. Wikipedia. Retrieved on August 14, 2009.
- ^ Anonymous editor (March 2, 2009). Edit to Tom Brokaw. Wikipedia. Retrieved on August 14, 2009.