This is really ridiculous. Can’t our society do something to curb the financial incentives which exist for lawyers to pursue ridiculous cases? I would much rather see these people actually doing something VALUABLE with their lives rather than making headlines like this. According to today’s Business Week article, “Wikipedia: “A Work in Progress”:

…on Dec. 12, a group based in Long Beach, N.Y., announced it would pursue a class action against the site to represent those “who believe that they have been defamed or who have been the subject of anonymous and malicious postings to the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia.”

I suppose I might feel a little different about this if I was John Seigenthaler Sr. instead of Wesley Fryer, but I don’t think so. Good grief. Let’s get over it, folks. Virtual vandalism is just something that comes with the territory for the highest profile wiki in the world in our era of web 2.0. Are we going to start suing students who edit the WikiPedia also, and post information that is not accurate, even if it was posted with good faith and the best of intentions?

Give me a break.

At least the WikiPedia response to this situation sounds reasonable. People are going to have to log in to edit the WikiPedia, and will no longer be able to edit anonymously:

…we’ve [WikiPedia honchos] decided that we want to slow down the creation of new pages, so starting in January we’re preventing unregistered users from creating new pages, because so often those have to be deleted.

Doing away with anonymity on WikiPedia may be a bad idea for dissidents living in China, Iran, and other countries whose governments actively suppress free speech, however. Consider this:

…there are definitely people working in Wikipedia who may have privacy reasons for not wanting their name on the site. For example, there are people working on Wikipedia from China, where the site is currently blocked. We have a contributor in Iran who has twice been told his name has been turned into the police for his work in Wikipedia. He’s brave. His real name is known, actually. But there are lots of reasons for privacy online that aren’t nefarious.

Hopefully those publishers wanting to remain anonymous can still do so with an anonymous WikiPedia login that uses an alias and nontraceable email address. We need their contributions too, maybe even more than many of the contributions submitted by “average folks” in the comparatively “free” West.

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One Response to Can’t lawyers find anything better to do?

  1. JimMc says:

    Amen brother. It reminds me of a line from a recent New Republic article on Data Privacy and Security legislation (or lack thereof): “Maybe the best thing that could happen would be for someone to take [Senator] Leahy’s lost data problem one step further and actually steal his identity, too. And, while they’re at it, they should also steal Senator Bill Frist’s identity–just to ensure bipartisan support.”

    Why don’t I post something bad about you, you do the same for me, we all do it to each other. If it happened to all of us, then maybe we would eventually realize that we DON’T have to be passive victims. That we can start our own blog, our own website, our own Un-MisInformation campaign.

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