[Air-l] Wikipedia and defamation

danah boyd aoir.z3z at danah.org
Tue Dec 6 09:52:51 PST 2005

There was no "lengthy process" wrt the Seigenthaler issue.

The entry was made anonymously.  It was not linked to any other entry  
on the system.  It was only edited once.  Because it was made  
anonymously and not linked, no one was watching it for changes.  It  
sat there.  Anyone who found it could've changed it but no one did.   
It could only be found by explicitly searching on the site for  
Seigenthaler's name.  He did this and flipped.  He complained to  
Wikipedia and they were IMMEDIATELY on alert.  They edited the entry  
within a few hours and even volunteered to remove the entire history  
because entries should not be made in such a defamatory way.  They  
also decided to make it impossible for new entries to be made  
anonymously because they want all entries to have people watching  
them (a formal process where people are alerted to changes to the  
article).  *THEN* Seigenthaler wrote the USAToday piece complaining.

Once Wikipedians were alerted, it was changed in hours.  But no one  
altered someone because it was probably not seen by anyone.   
Seigenthaler is not that well known today and it's doubtful folks  
have been searching for him.  Anyone could've altered the system by  
marking this as a problematic entry.  No one did.  Anyone could've  
informed Wikipedia and they would've changed it; no one did.

For the vast majority of articles, there are people watching them,  
watching EVERY change.  When people wipe an entry, or add biases, it  
changes within minutes.  MINUTES.  For the articles that are small,  
unlinked and anonymous, they're effectively invisible.  This is what  
needs to change more than anything else.  And this is what is changing.

The hysteria around the Seigenthaler case is ridiculous.  I have lots  
of problems with Wikipedia but this is a hyped up situation that is  
so on the margins of the norm that it's foolish, not strong.

On Dec 5, 2005, at 9:27 PM, Ken Friedman wrote:

> 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.

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