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Zoeller Sues to Identify Wikipedia Post Author

   
11:12 am on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller is suing to track down the author who posted what he describes as a defamatory paragraph about him on the Internet reference site Wikipedia.
Zoeller's attorney, Scott D. Sheftall, said he filed the lawsuit against a Miami firm last week because the law won't allow him to sue St. Petersburg-based Wikipedia. The suit alleges someone used a computer at Josef Silny & Associates, a Miami education consulting firm, to add the information to Zoeller's Wikipedia profile.

"Courts have clearly said you have to go after the source of the information," Sheftall said. "The Zoeller family wants to take a stand to put a stop to this. Otherwise, we're all just victims of the Internet vandals out there. They ought not to be able to act with impunity."

Zoeller Sues to Identify Wikipedia Post Author [usatoday.com]

1:23 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Wikipedia most likely logged the author, have his/her IP so now it boils down to confidentiality. Personally I´d just mail the ip number, but perhaps a user contributed encyclopedia has to show more integrity.
1:30 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)



I agree with him. Not sure if I would have sued, but then, it depends. The person who put it there knew what he/she was doing was bad.
2:10 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Fuzzy probably wouldn't give a monkey's uncle about a dodgy Wikipedia bio if Google didn't give Wiki entries such high listings in the serps.
4:12 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I'm glad he sued - generally I hate all the ligigation we have in this country but I agree with the golfer 100% in this case. Wikipedia to me is not a piece of work, but stolen property and fairy tales. People need to learn things are not free in this world!
4:17 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I think this is a wakeup call for a lot of companies.

Many employees are complete idiots when it comes to computer use. They don't have a clue about IP addresses or internal network tracking and assume they can anonymously do anything online without repercussions.

In the Zoeller case, he is suing the Miami firm where the Wiki changes originated - not the idiot that is responsible. The worst case is this firm will have to pay perceived damages in the case, and best case, spend a fortune in legal fees to defend themselves. Either way, the miami firm has lost a lot of credibility as a result of the actions of a single employee.

I have also heard of idiots continuously clicking on AdWords of competitors thinking they are funny by using up a competitor's campaign budget. While the same IP clicks away, I'm confident that Google does not charge for massive clicks in a short time frame, but also confident Google will have a good memory for the IP of the abuser. With Google becoming omnipresent, I wouldn't want to be the one on Google's 'dark' list.

Since the Zoeller filing, I've sent out an email to all of my clients recommending that they distribute a memo to all of their employees outlining this case, and explaining many of the problems that can result from their abuse.

Hopefully an awareness campaign will reduce such naive behavior in the future.

Steve

5:07 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Two words: Internet Café. (Preferable those who even lend you the computer, not just the internet access).

I hate/laugh about how people don't even know how to do bad things.

5:35 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Two words: Internet Café. (Preferable those who even lend you the computer, not just the internet access).
I hate/laugh about how people don't even know how to do bad things.

Most of those require a sign up with a photo id. - Also all computers have a mac address - Still would not be that hard to track you down, if somone really wanted to.

7:06 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I'm glad he sued - generally I hate all the ligigation we have in this country but I agree with the golfer 100% in this case. Wikipedia to me is not a piece of work, but stolen property and fairy tales. People need to learn things are not free in this world!

Me too.

Wikipedia should be sued. In the UK a publisher can be sued for publishing defamatory material, why not in the US? Could it be that Wikipedia are actually an enormous global corporation masquerading as a "charitable service"?

Matt

7:26 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I've read the article linked to from here, as well as a few other articles. I still don't understand why Wikipedia cannot be sued. To me it would be easier to find out the name of the editor by forcing Wikipedia to disclose that information rather than suing a basically disinterested third-party. After all, just because the edit was done from an IP Address that traces back to this firm doesn't necessarily mean someone who works for the firm made the edit. It could have been a contractor. Maybe the firm has unsecured WiFi. They may essentially have no idea who made the actual edit. Wikipedia absolutely knows who made the edit.

Why can't Wikipedia be sued? Not for monetary damages, just for the name of the editor.

[Clarifications]

[edited by: GaryK at 7:27 pm (utc) on Feb. 25, 2007]

8:37 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Actually, IP and user agent are probably all that wikipedia has. As far as I understand it, with the exception of locked entries, just about any page can be edited without logging in.

Personally, I do most of my edits anonymously, but mainly because I don't want people to know just how big of a scifi geek I am...

8:46 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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This whole Wikipedia annoys me!
We have a “company page” there - one of our competitors consistently comes and posts bad stuff about our company. We are consistently changing it back to have only facts. Because in the eyes of regular people Wiki has more “reputation” than even BBB. My boss at first was happy to have the Wiki page, now doesn’t want it at all. They would not remove it. So we are ready to sue too.
10:24 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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It would be impossible to track someone down from an Internet cafe if they were clever.
11:54 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member kaled is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



It's not clear in the article, but I assume the company is merely being compelled to provide whatever information it has so that the individual responsible can be identified. In order to secure damages from the company, I think Zoeller would have to prove culpability. As has been pointed out, the IP address could be simply an open WiFi connection, in which case, culpability certainly could not be proven.

Neverthless, the company should cooperate to the best of its ability.

Kaled.

12:02 am on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member vincevincevince is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



To me, this is just crazy, the legal system gone wrong.

If he doesn't like the statement then he can go in and delete it.

The allegations are nothing compared to the abuse Bill Gates gets online.

12:40 am on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)



>> If he doesn't like the statement then he can go in and delete it.

and those people who already read it? Plus, this does not address the reason why the vandal did it, or why does Zoeller have to keep chcking wikipedia every minute to see if someone calls him a drug abuser, wife beater etc again.

>> The allegations are nothing compared to the abuse Bill Gates gets online.

so?

12:48 am on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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' It would be impossible to track someone down from an Internet cafe if they were clever.'

Not necessarily. If the cafe keeps logs of who used what computer and each computer has a different IP address, then it could be a piece of cake.

1:44 am on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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How about posting from a public library? I've got to buff up my own wikipedia bio.
4:49 am on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I see the 'hate Google' bandwagon has morphed into the 'hate Wikipedia' group
10:04 am on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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if he wanted to get rid of the paragraph why didn't he just have a nice quiet word with wikipedia and have the entry changed. by suing he is giving rather a lot of publicity to it. I sure wouldn't have known about it if he hadn't have sued.
10:55 am on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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if he wanted to get rid of the paragraph why didn't he just have a nice quiet word with wikipedia and have the entry changed.

That's really not the point. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Wikipedia becomes the basis for many test cases which could result in many future cyber laws.

The whole premise of Wikipedia is flawed in my opinion. Many, many articles are erroneous in their entirety or contain erroneous information. Articles can be altered by anyone and everyone at any time and from anywhere. In short, it is nothing more than a massive blog written by hundreds of thousands of unidentified and mainly unqualified contributors. All information contained on Wikipedia, is at best, suspect.

The fact that it is possible to write and publish anonymous and defamatory comments about anyone is evidence of the inherent flaws within the Wikipedia model.

It is high time somebody took Wikipedia and all other sites like them to task. Anonimity, up to a certain point is fine. But when it comes to owning one's words and being held legally responsible for them, that is an entirely different story.

Anonimity is the undisputed Alpha and Omega of the web. It could also be the root cause for the forced invocation of a legal cyber code.

I see the 'hate Google' bandwagon has morphed into the 'hate Wikipedia' group

Nope, I like Google but I admittedly hate Wikipedia and am amazed they are given so much credence by the masses ... including Google!

[edited by: Liane at 10:58 am (utc) on Feb. 26, 2007]

11:09 am on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member kaled is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Most people have a traceable email address provided by their ISP. If the editing of biographies required email validation (and barred googlemail, hotmail, yahoo, etc.) then these problems would largely vanish. To that extent, there is some culpability on the part of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia should not consider itself immune from prosecution for defamation any more than YouTube is immune from prosecution for copyright theft. The law can be very fluid.

Kaled.

1:42 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Fuzzy probably wouldn't give a monkey's uncle about a dodgy Wikipedia bio if Google didn't give Wiki entries such high listings in the serps.

I think that's the key to it. If you're the physical subject of an article on Wikipedia -- my guess is that you can become pretty proactive and achieve changes quite quickly.

The moral question is -- would Zoeller and his legal team go after tiny Wiki's out there that contain similar information?

 

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