[Air-l] Wikipedia and defamation

Judd Antin jantin at SIMS.Berkeley.EDU
Tue Dec 6 07:44:07 PST 2005


I identify with all of your concerns, but I completely disagree with 
your reaction to them. Civil disobedience is about drawing attention to 
disenfranchised voices through collective non-violent action. But your 
voice is NOT disenfranchised. Quite the opposite - you are completely 
empowered to influence information quality on Wikipedia. You need only 
become a more active editor, and encourage your students and colleagues 
to do so as well. (I should take my own advice here!)

It's simply that if we all followed your suggestion to boycott, we would 
have no Wikipedia at all, if we all took action and became more 
conscientious editors to any degree, we would have a Wikipedia that is 
more responsive to concerns about quality.


--Judd Antin
School of Information Management & Systems (SIMS)
University of California Berkeley
jantin at sims.berkeley.edu
blog: http://technotaste.com/blog

Ken Friedman wrote:
> Friends,
> Barry puts his finger on the issue that bothers me here. I agree with most
> of the posts on scholarly and theoretical issues, and certainly the posts
> on pedagogical issues.
> My strong stand on this case is simple. There seems to be no good way
> to correct seriously damaging information in a swift, rapid manner.
> My goal is to see some clear action taken that will enable this kind of
> information to be caught and corrected without the kind of lengthy
> process Seigenthaler's correction took, and I want to see it done in a
> way that allows for rapid flow-through correction to the sites and
> services that use Wikipedia.
> In that sense, you can consider this a kind of stubborn "sit-in" or a
> non-violent "fast."
> As to the rest of it, I agree, and I spend a great deal of time on many of
> these issues -- at least to the degree possible in courses that sometimes
> seem to have more required content than the semester allows while
> students are also overloaded with cases and projects in other courses
> that militate against the reflective, critical thinking many of us encourage.
> Yours,
> Ken
> --
> Barry Wellman wrote:
> the current AOIR debate about Wikipedia highlights another problem.
> It is quite easy to make legally defamatory statements on Wikipedia.
> Normally, the remedy is a law suit for civil damages.
> But if the author is anonymous, whom does one sue?
> And yes, I know that defamation law suits are expensive and hard to do.
> But at least the legal remedy is there in principle -- when the author is
> known. But the Wikipedia approach is like someone flooding the mail with
> anonymous defamatory photocopies.
> --

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