[Air-l] wikipedia and defamation
Karim R. Lakhani
lakhani at MIT.EDU
Mon Dec 5 20:21:51 PST 2005
This and the other earlier discussion reminds me of my early days
researching open source communities (7 years ago!)- a lot of people just
simply refused to believe that any good could come out of distributed
innovation communities - we now know better....
for me wikipedia is still in its early days and the rules are just now
being figured out --- for example it is now being reported that NEW
ARTICLES - will need to be started by REGISTERED Users:
Wikipedia will now require users to register before they can create
articles, Jimmy Wales, founder of the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Web
site, said Monday. People who modify existing articles will still be
able to do so without registering.
The change comes less than a week after John Seigenthaler, a one-time
administrative assistant to Robert Kennedy, complained in an op-ed
published in USA Today that a biography of him on Wikipedia claimed he
had been suspected in the assassinations of the former attorney general
and his brother.....
Today - coincidentally - today I had the pleasure of hosting Denise
Anthony from Dartmouth at the Sloan Innovation Seminar - her paper is
VERY interesting because it shows that there is significant value from
the anonymous contributors:
Her paper: "Explaining Quality in Internet Collective Goods: Zealots
and Good Samaritans in the case of Wikipedia" is available at:
One important innovation in information and communication technology
developed over the past decade was organizational rather than merely
technological. Open source production is remarkable because it converts
a private commodity (typically software) into a public good. A number of
studies examine the factors motivating contributions to open source
production goods, but we argue it is important to understand the causes
of high quality contributions to such goods. In this paper, we analyze
quality in the open source online encyclopedia Wikipedia. We find that,
for users who create an online persona through a registered user name,
the quality of contributions increases as the number of contributions
increase, consistent with the idea of experts motivated by reputation
and committed to the Wikipedia community. Unexpectedly, however, we find
the highest quality contributions come from the vast numbers of
anonymous “Good Samaritans” who contribute infrequently. Our findings
that Good Samaritans as well as committed “Zealots” contribute high
quality content to Wikipedia suggest that open source production is
remarkable as much for its organizational as its technological
innovation that enables vast numbers of anonymous one-time contributors
to create high quality, essentially public goods.
Judd Antin wrote:
> An interesting side note: the distinction between 'transient' and
> 'fixed' communication or media appears to underlay the legal notion of
> defamation. Wikipedia doesn't fit cleanly into either of those
> categories. Should a work that is universally and indefinitely editable
> be subject to the same requirements as traditional slander and libel? It
> could certainly have an effect on an individual's reputation, but at the
> same time that individual (or any other) is empowered to immediately
> remove the offending passage.
> --Judd Antin
> School of Information Management & Systems (SIMS)
> University of California Berkeley
> jantin at sims.berkeley.edu
> blog: http://technotaste.com/blog
> 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.
>> Barry Wellman Professor of Sociology NetLab Director
>> wellman at chass.utoronto.ca http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman
>> Centre for Urban & Community Studies University of Toronto
>> 455 Spadina Avenue Toronto Canada M5S 2G8 fax:+1-416-978-7162
>> To network is to live; to live is to network
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Karim R. Lakhani
MIT Sloan | The Boston Consulting Group
Mobile: +1 (617) 851-1224
http://web.mit.edu/lakhani/www | http://opensource.mit.edu
My *new* book: http://tinyurl.com/cjxj6
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