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Wikipedia The Courts

Wikipedia Editors Hit With $10 Million Defamation Suit 268

New submitter Andreas Kolbe writes: "Businessman, philanthropist and musician Yank Barry and the Global Village Champions Foundation are suing four Wikipedia editors for defamation, claiming they have maliciously conspired to keep Barry's Wikipedia biography unduly negative. The Daily Dot article includes a copy of the legal brief and quotes Barry as saying, "My page was so ridiculously false and made me sound like a terrible person and people believed it causing deals to fall through. I finally had enough."
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Wikipedia Editors Hit With $10 Million Defamation Suit

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  • by bumba2014 ( 3564161 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @02:21AM (#47312851)
    I'm not sure about the English version, but the German version about Falun Gong / Falun Dafa contains a lot of negative lies, spread by the CCP. Every time someone corrects it, someone from china will change it back. At the end they didn't allow any changes anymore, and put half the truth and half the lies in it. Unfortunately a lot of people believe what is written in those articles. I can imagine this happening to a lot of subjects.
  • But is it false? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @02:26AM (#47312867) Journal
    I know that defamation suits can be filed (and sometimes even won) even if the information being published is true (if it's false, then one could further sue for libel) but it's my understanding that in the case where the published information is true, the onus is on the person who is suing to show that the *intent* of the publishers was to actually defame them... which of course is quite difficult to do in court. They would have to, using factual evidence, show how it was somehow considerably more probable that there was actually any malicious intent on the publisher's part than any claim the publisher the might make to contrary being true. Unless the publishers actually confess that this is the case, this will not be easy... no matter how good their lawyers are.
  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @02:31AM (#47312883)

    I suspect he isn't half as famous as he thinks he is, and wants to blame Wikipedia for the lack of business opportunities banging down his door.

  • Re:Who is that? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @02:41AM (#47312921) Journal
    I don't think it can be considered opinion, WP advertises itself as an encyclopedia, it goes out of its way to base its claims on citations. I'm a strong supporter of WP and this guys sounds like a "flim-flam man", however that doesn't mean he is wrong and it does appear that at least one editor was hell bent on causing him financial damage. OTOH $10M is a ludicrous exaggeration of any real damages, or it would be were it not happening in the US.
  • Re:Who is that? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @02:50AM (#47312961) Journal

    Oh good, I'll just print up a bunch of fliers saying you torture kittens and set fire to orphanages and post them around your home town. Because nobody has heard of you and I'm not a publicly listed company, it will be 'opinion' rather than 'libel'.

    I have no idea whether this guy's claims are justified, but neither do you. My liking Wikipedia does not therefore mean that the facts or the law are on the side of Wikipedia.

  • by Camembert ( 2891457 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @03:03AM (#47313013)
    In principle, I can imagine that wilfully wrong wikipedia information can ruin someone's business and career opportunities, and in that case a defamation suit seems appropriate, very similar to spreading defamation through other publication channels. Wikipedia, as much as I love it, should not be above the standards by which books or magazines are judged.
    However, in this case, if the negative information checks out true (and there are plenty of references), such as the convictions he received, then there is no good reason for him to sue. If he weren't convicted, it would not be in the article. As others have mentioned he should rather look up "Streisand Effect" before sueing.
  • Progress (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bazman ( 4849 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @03:44AM (#47313137) Journal

    He's suing the editors, the people who wrote the stuff. A few years back, people would have sued wikipedia for showing the page, the hosting company for hosting the page, the company that maintain the DNS record for WIkipedia and Dell (or whoever) for running the site on their servers.

    Not really news.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @04:33AM (#47313261)

    Wikipedia is a MMORPG where the guy with most free time always wins. Anybody who takes it seriously is a victim of either ignorance or zeal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @04:53AM (#47313305)

    I see nothing in those prior versions that justifies a lawsuit either. The current version is certainly better written, and contains a few more of the accusations against him (such as conning celebrities), but there's nothing in any of the three that justifies a lawsuit.

    Given what's written in some of those cited newspaper articles, the WP article (and the two you link to) is quite tame.

  • Re:Who is that? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Oligonicella ( 659917 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @05:20AM (#47313351)
    From day one I've said that WIkipedia is a fools' encyc. With the ability for any jerk to edit, it is inevitable that this happens. The worst articles involve persons, beliefs and governments. Even the scientific articles are not immune. It's only good for a jumping off place.
  • Re:Who is that? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @05:28AM (#47313365)

    So, if push comes to shove, whatever is expressed there is an opinion. And last time I checked you're entitled to one in the US, and also to saying it.

    Actually you're not. That's the whole basis of libel laws. If you spread false or misleading information that could tarnish the reputation of another person you are most definitely not entitled to an opinion as far as the law is concerned.

  • Re:Who is that? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @05:31AM (#47313373)

    I'm interested if you still think this would be the case if you were on the verge of a multi-million dollar deal which suddenly fell through because the other party thought that you actually do kill kittens.

    See complacency depends only on how much you have to lose. Now what if the lie cost you your reputation, and your job, and damaged your standing with other people?
    Doesn't happen? Just look at how peoples lives are absolutely ruined by an accusation of being a sex offender even if they are subsequently found innocent.

    To say that your horrible kitten massacre won't come back to hurt you is incredibly naive.

  • The Truth? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @06:07AM (#47313491)

    Problem is, Wikipedia isn't trying to portray the truth. Instead, it just repeats what "credible sources" report. So if this was 1984 and all the sources reported 2+2=5, Wikipedia would have no choice but to do the same, citing the sources, no matter how obvious it is that it's wrong. Fortunately though, the Western world generally has freedom of the press, so going by credible sources generally comes pretty close to the truth.

    Of course, determining which sources are credible is a challenge, especially on controversial issues like global warming or for things like urban myths that are often reported by "credible" sources without doing research.

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @07:07AM (#47313691) Homepage

    I really don't know enough about this case to know whether the guy has a leg to stand on or not. I mean, sometimes blatantly false stuff is added on Wikipedia - remember the John Seigenthaler [wikipedia.org] incident way back when? Of course, even that had its backlash [wikia.com]. ;)

  • The only people with enough time to "win" at Wikipedia are zealots and trolls. Anyone well intentioned just gets fed up after the 5th revert and bout of rule lawyering.

  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @08:52AM (#47314123) Homepage

    It is not whether or not he has a crooked dogs hind leg to stand on, it is whether or not he can conspire via his lawyers to intimidate those person with the threat of court costs.

    Catch is those people will be able to call on the public for assistance in the gathering of evidence to substantiate their claims, hugely reducing their costs. Where as he will have to pay his lawyers to contest that evidence, in this case the more evidence the merrier. All none digitised, all hard copy, page after page, volume after volume, the more evidence his lawyers have to review the more his costs blow out. His intent is clearly to threaten all Wikipedia contributors with threats of civil suits by the wealthy. The most effective counter is tens of thousands of pages of evidence with his lawyers being paid to review and challenge every page at say something in the vicinity of $100 per page.

  • Re:The Truth? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @09:56AM (#47314527) Journal

    There is, however, an expectation that Wikipedia editors will present information about a person (or any topic, for that matter) in a way that is proportionate to its relevance and importance. Under- or (especially) over-stating the importance of particular facts to give a coloured perspective isn't on; see the section of Wikipedia's neutral-point-of-view policy on Due and undue weight [wikipedia.org].

    In other words, if George W. Bush's biography opened with

    George W. Bush was a fighter pilot with the Texas Air National Guard, serving without particular distinction from 1968 to 1974.

    It would be an undeniably true statement that nevertheless failed to comply with Wikipedia policy.

    Similarly, Wikipedia's policy against using Wikipedia as a venue to publish original research specifically forbids "synthesis of published material" [wikipedia.org]. That is, you can't cherry-pick a bunch of sources (or parts of sources) and use them to state - or imply - a particular novel conclusion that hasn't been presented by a reliable, independent source. I could go on at length, but suffice it to say that Wikipedia content is ruled by far more than "It appeared in the newspaper so we have to put in Wikipedia".

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry