Talk:John Seigenthaler/Archive 1

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

This is a talk_page archive covering a period from November 30 to December 5 2005. Click on the first link under the page title to see current discussion, or click the second link for an overview of the archives.

Wikipedia controversy

Seigenthaler's biography on Wikipedia was tainted by a false and vandalous entry between May and September, 2005. The information was spread across dozens of Wikipedia mirrors before it was discovered and deleted. Seigenthaler wrote about his experience with the vandalism in USA Today on November 29, 2005. He expressed deep concern for the inability of anyone to determine who was responsible for the libel and decried online privacy laws, writing "And so we live in a universe of new media with phenomenal opportunities for worldwide communications and research — but populated by volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects. Congress has enabled them and protects them."

Wikipedia has had numerous problems with Internet providers who use proxies and dynamic IP addresses, which at times inadvertantly gives their customers complete anonymity. The IP address or usernames of all Wikipedia users is logged and it is quite clear who has written what in the page history. In the case of the vandalism of Seigenthaler's article, it was shown that the IP address was the author of the edit, and the logs show that the edit was made at 00:29, May 27, 2005 (currently the revisions are deleted, only administrators can review the content, though anyone can view the time and IP addresses of the edits). A whois of ARIN shows that the IP address belongs to BellSouth, an major U.S. Internet Service Provider. A reverse domain name lookup resolves this to

Wikipedia has previously had issues with other large providers, such as Australia's Ozemail (their security team told Wikipedia administrator Ta bu shi da yu that he could block the IP address range he asked about, as they said it was only being used by their proxy servers - this proved false) and AOL, who uses centralised proxies which users cannot bypass. These providers have been less than responsive to Wikipedia when asked for assistance in dealing with page vandalism.

Of course it's neutral but I don't think it belongs onto the article page but onto the discussion page, or at least only for a few days. -- TomK32 07:22, 30 November 2005 (UTC)

  • Why wouldn't it belong on te article page? He's published an opinion piece in a major daily newspaper - his comments about Wikipedia, whether anyone agrees or not, are highly encyclopedic. FCYTravis 07:39, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
    • Because I don't think it will be interesting (in this detail) anymore in ten or twenty years. -- TomK32
      • I disagree. As Wikipedia becomes more mainstream, conflicts like this are important milestones to note. It's both an object lesson in the foibles of Wikipedia - and a clear demonstration that now, more than ever, Wikipedia is becoming a part of the mainstream American culture. It's not every day that a journalist of Seigenthaler's stature writes about an Internet encyclopedia. FCYTravis 08:23, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
        • Well, given that he's referred to the Communications Decency Act, which was also ammended by the USA PATRIOT Act, I believe that it's most likely notable material. I'd certainly still be interested in a few years time. - Ta bu shi da yu 08:56, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
          • I concur with Ta bu shi da ya. The Land 11:32, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
            • My opinion is somewhere in the middle. The incident itself is notable, but the way it is described in the artcile sounds more like a Wikipedia's response to the USA Today article. Strictly speaking, comments about Wikipedia's troubles in tracing contributors are original research. -- 11:58, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
    • What if it becomes a seperate article altogether, with only a reference in Mr. Seigenthaler's article. It is an interesting case study. -- user:zanimum
      • Yes, please. There should be a spearate, featured-quality article about Wikipedia controversies. None better to write such a beast than the community. Then there can be deep links from pages such as this one; having the majority of the Seigenthaler article be about WP is unbalanced (His life is far more important than this footnote to it). +sj + 15:26, 30 November 2005 (UTC)

How about moving it to WikiNews? Isn't that why we have WikiNews? For moving short-living content to a better place? --TomK32

I think there are two serious problems with this as it stands. First, the controversy thing is longer than the rest of the article. Mr. Seigenthaler is not notable mostly for his controversy with wikipedia. That maybe how most of us found out about him, but not why he should be included in our encyclopedia. Second, the end of the section is clearly "wikipedia's" response. What does our dealings with an Austrailian ISP or AOL have to do with Seigenthaler? Someone from Bell South vandalized his page. I think the section should be there, but much shorter. --best, kevin [kzollman][talk] 16:51, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
It seems like there should be an entirely separate article, probably a "Current Event" article; and that this article should only have a one-line link to that news item at the top or bottom of the page. Don't let POV bias slip in: this may be a big deal for Wikipedia, and might be even a historical event for Wikipedia (for better or worse), but it's a drop in the bucket of the life of a man like Mr. Seigenthaler. --IQpierce 9:12 CST, 1 Dec 2005

"populated by volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellect" As opposed to the mainstream media, populated by professional vandals with poison-pen agendas? As if Dan Rather, Bob Woodward, and Chris Matthews haven't attempted far worse feats of character assassination? It's only when a member of the press (cue heavenly music) get's hit with something unjust that we learn how unfair journalism hurts our democracy. proteus71 14:46, 1 Dec 2005.

Why remove ([1])? I think it's important to point out rebuttals to the subjects assertions in the USA today article to maintain NPOV. Airing only the subject's views is not NPOV. Edit: I've restored the text but with reference to Slashdot remove. Hopefully this will placate others who find this self-referential.

  • Presenting the facts alone would be both more encyclopedic and less POV than presenting all possible opinions about this issue. The publication of the editorial is fact. Rebuttal is not necessary. This isn't Crossfire. Dystopos 16:54, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
It isn't really notable. Nobody is going to be interested in the predictable internal unrest of the Wikipedia community due to criticism. If the Wikimedia Foundation had an opposing viewpoint, that might be worth noting (and disappointing). ᓛᖁ♀ 16:53, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
It *IS* a fact that there is a sizeable number of people who disagree with this. Presenting the opinion of the subject (including quotes which are rather incendiary) but not representing differing opinions by a large number of people (in large enough numbers, even non-public-figures count as notable IMHO). Yes it's not crossfire, but it should include factual representations of both sides of the disagreement. While it's obvious to any frequent Wikipedia reader that there would be such dissent, to a non-savvy reader it would appear that there are no differing opinions. 17:03, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
"And so we live in a universe of new media with phenomenal opportunities for worldwide communications and research — but populated by volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects. Congress has enabled them and protects them."
Yes, they're called "we the people". Hope you got my IP as I flew past. -- Spnspmbmartem 01:33, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

Original entry

Based on the Nationmaster Google mirror, the original entry seems to be this:

FALSE ENTRY: John Seigenthaler was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the ealry 1960's. For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assasinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven.

John Seigenthaler moved to the Soviet Union in 1971, and returned to the United States in 1984.

He started one of the country's largest public relations firm shortly thereafter.

What Seigenthaler quotes in his USA Today article is the full extent of the entry. Although it clearly is false and potentially libelous, I would at least like to mention that it does not appear to be the most sophisticated attempt at libel. The writer probably intended it more as a stupid joke and a test than as an attempt to libel him, but it's hard to say. One issue this raises is that while regular contributors may see Wikipedia as a serious encyclopedia, others may view it like any other joke chat board or Internet forum. Oddly enough, in they way they market their content, Wikipedia and the mirrors may be more responsible than this user who might say he felt he was posting an ironic joke and didn't believe that Wikipedia information would be taken seriously anyway. The commercialization of Wikipedia through the deal with, which changes the role of Wikipedia in connection to the commercial use of its content, will only make the risk of lawsuits rise. Tfine80 17:07, 30 November 2005 (UTC)

Besides being published on the USAToday website yesterday ([2]), it was also picked up by Yahoo! News today ([3]), although a quick check at Yahoo! News and Google News does not show the story anywhere else...yet. I imagine this article is going to get lots of visits for awhile. I did a small update showing that the IP was probably in the Nashville, Tennessee area [4]. BlankVerse 17:28, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
I don't think that particular lookup is an accurate indicator of geographical location pertaining to the individual using that account. Obviously, whois traces it to Bellsouth in Atlanta, Georgia. When I entered my IP at that site, it said I was posting from Huntington Beach, California. I'm in Hawaii. A whois traces my IP to Reston, Virginia. There's a lot of factors at play here. --Viriditas 06:03, 5 December 2005 (UTC)
Hmm, that would make sense. I believe he still lives in the Nashville area. He was editor of The Tennessean before he was moved up to USA Today (both Gannett papers), and he founded the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt. He's probably made a few enemies and other ne'erdowells in his time. Ttownfeen 23:49, 30 November 2005 (UTC) (edited by Ttownfeen 07:06, 1 December 2005 (UTC) for grammar and sytanx because I must have been asleep the first go around.)
But the entry seems so childish and silly to be a real adult enemy. I wouldn't be surprised if it was some kid who has a beef with another kid in the family or something. Maybe even a immature relative playing around. Tfine80 00:38, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
I was reading up on Seignethaler this morning and apparently he's been the subject of quite a few death threats and even a kidnapping attempt. Apparently he's pissed off a few people in Tennessee. Gamaliel 00:43, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

The allegation seems more a mistake then slander. After all, in 1976 the FBI had an undercover agent working for him as a copy editor at the Tennessean. I'd like to see any source showing that the FBI investigation had anything to do with suspision of being linked to the JFK assasination. Personally, I feel much more scared for my freedom when an angry rich politians are running around screaming lawsuit, compared to having possible errors in a peer reviewed editing system where all that is required is having someone who is simply willing to re-edit the article. --Stevenwagner 17:58, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

Removed POV entry on Wikipedia

Seigenthaler's biography on Wikipedia was tainted by a false and vandalous entry between May and September 2005. The information was spread across dozens of Wikipedia mirrors before it was deleted. Seigenthaler wrote about his experience with the vandalism in USA Today on November 29, 2005. He expressed deep concern for the inability of anyone to determine who was responsible for the libel and decried online privacy laws, writing "And so we live in a universe of new media with phenomenal opportunities for worldwide communications and research — but populated by volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects. Congress has enabled them and protects them."

If someone can please rewrite this in an NPOV way which doesnt simply parrot the distressed complaints of an aged person concerned about the details of his legacy, I (and perhaps many more) would much appreciate it. --St|eve 22:48, 30 November 2005 (UTC)

"distressed complaints of an aged person concerned about the details of his legacy"? Excuse me? Get real! I thought you were an admin! haven't you bothered to read the deleted edits?! - Ta bu shi da yu 12:47, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
A prominent, accomplished person finds himself libelled on Wikipedia by someone suggesting that there was evidence linking him to two assassinations, and gets mad and writes about it. What's disgusting is that someone comes along on this Talk page and accuses him of being an old man too absorbed with his own legacy. What that tells me is that this sort of situation will happen again and again. 00:58, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
Is it really necessary to mock someone who took the perfectly reasonable position of being outraged at being accused of murdering his former boss? Gamaliel 00:00, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
I'd say yes, considering he had four months to edit it, as people with knowledge of subjects are encouraged to do on Wikipedia. — ceejayoz talk Flag of Australia.svg 14:47, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
Not really encouraged in this instance, though, as that would be a violation of the guideline WP:AUTO. Probably a good violation of it, but there is still a guideline that suggests he shouldn't change it himself. Also, how could he change it when he doesn't know about it? Should everybody periodically check that Wikipedia doesn't contain a libellous article on them? JulesH 21:16, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

I rewrote that paragraph. Personally, I think removal was probably an appropriate option, since writing a newspaper article is entirely unremarkable. Having sentences about it here is just myopic self-vanity on our part. -Splashtalk 00:35, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

I'm inclined to agree to an extent, but considering how much blather there used to be about this matter, I think it's a decent compromise. Gamaliel 00:43, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
I, personally, have never heard of John Seigenthaler Sr. before this morning's news, and as such don't see the accusations as "obviously ridiculous." No one has given any evidence that it is or is not ridiculous, except fear that some old man will sue anyone who doesn't say nice things about him. This article is, at least in this decade, John Seigenthaler's claim to fame, and it cannot be separated from his biography. We need some evidence either way, so those of us who don't accept an editorial in the USAToday as de facto infallible fact have something to go on. Mrcolj 14:17, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
Mr. Seigenthaler has many larger claims to fame in this decade. There is a much bigger world outside the purview of Wikipedia or the blogosphere. As to the removed content, anything that is not verifiable does not belong here.(Wikipedia:Verifiability). There is a broad plain between censorship and correction. Opinions about the validity of his editorial are neither biographical nor encyclopedic (WP:POV). Dystopos 15:07, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

Technically, you COULD get all the feathers back into the pillow, but it would just be a good amount of hard work. In the end, I would guess that because of this event and the subsequent media flurry, about 100 times more people (than in May 2005) now know about (and most likely respect) John Seigenthaler, Sr., than knew about him or respected his life's work. Isn't it funny how being "libeled" can bring you an otherwise unprecedented amount of fame and respect? Thekohser 19:35, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

Wikipedia evil?

From Seigenthaler's editorial in USA Today:

When I was a child, my mother lectured me on the evils of "gossip." She held a feather pillow and said, "If I tear this open, the feathers will fly to the four winds, and I could never get them back in the pillow. That's how it is when you spread mean things about people."
For me, that pillow is a metaphor for Wikipedia.

So, the way I'm reading this, in his opinion Wikipedia is the problem because it is not autocratic enough. Funny to hear this from a free speech advocate -- I guess he likes free speech in the abstract, but not when it affects him personally. He's taken a piece of forgettable chatter which could easily be discounted, and conflated it into a condemnation of modern collaborative communication and a call to action to suppress it. He also seems to imply that anonymous speech should only allowed when backed by a publisher. What a sad bookend for his legacy. Cleduc 17:36, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

Since when has being a free speech advocate meant that you had to advocate making it legal and acceptable to libel others? Gamaliel 18:16, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
Since when has accepting libel as unacceptable implied that restrictive measures be put in place so that speech that could be libelous is physically impossible?--Fangz 18:35, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
I don't agree with that interpretation of his editorial. Gamaliel 18:55, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
So then what is his point? As I understand his argument, WP should either be held liable for its content or it should eliminate anonymous contributions. At what other possible interpretation of his statements should we arrive? Cleduc 19:43, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

Article quality as a rebuttal

  • Probably the most convincing argument we Wikipedians could make in our defense is to construct the most authoritative accurate and balanced biographical article ever written about Mr. Seigenthaler. Dystopos 02:36, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
    • Wikipedia is never going to equal Britannica, but I don't think we should have a biography. I think it should just be a page saying that he has stated he does not want his biography on Wikipedia because he's a crybaby. Although, maybe not in those words. :) Compman 21:44, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
      • It's good that we at Wikipedia are able to handle criticism in such a mature way. Gamaliel 22:05, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
        • Wikipedia already greatly exceeds Britannica in several measures of usefulness (comprehensiveness, scope, contemporaneity, access and cost). It may never become an authority, as Britannica is. It would be a ridiculous mistake to kowtow to requests to remove accurate and fair material. Fortunately there is little fear of Wikipedia making that mistake. Dystopos 22:08, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
          • I take no stand on the WP vs. EB debate, but agree completely about defense. Props. Luckily, the attention drawn to this article has already improved it considerably. Heck, we could even go for Featured Article, thought that'd likely be unfeasible. --Kizor 11:51, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

A thought

What if someone really was involved in something awful like this. After all the news article says that it hasn't been proven, not that it didn't happen. The power of a user created encyclopedia is that anyone can spread information without fear of censorship or legal consequences. Wikipedia can tell stories that other news agencies can't for fear of being sued. It disturbs me greatly that wikipedia has bowed to the pressures of this one man and deleted the earlier edits from public view. If wikipedia censors itself when false information is posted will it censor itself when true information comes out about an evil man and that evil man cries libel and tries to have wikipedia shut down? Like p2p, wikipedia proves that information can not be stopped now matter much power a well connected man has to silence an anonymous detractor. Wikipedia should not help this nut case find his libeler. People need to be able to post without fear or reprisal. Good, Inocent men ignore false accusations. Guilty ones try to silence their accusers. --Ewok Slayer --(User | Talk | Contribs) 04:48, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

If you were accused of murder in a worldwide public forum, you'd just ignore it? And then you imply that someone is guilty because he objects to a false accusation? This is absolutely nuts.

Removal of false, unsourced information is not censorship, it is quality control. A legitimate encyclopedia cannot wantonly publish unsourced, unverified, anonymous libel and then complain when someone wants it removed. We shouldn't fear what happened here, we should encourage it, as the end result is a more accurate encyclopedia article, which is what we're supposed to be here for anyway. Gamaliel 06:26, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

By the way, a link to this page is on the main page of and fark has a history of crashing websites as so many ppl read this website. Have fun with your fancy vprotect :)--Ewok Slayer --(User | Talk | Contribs) 06:52, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for the info, I was wondering if we were getting slashdotted or the like. Well, they will get bored eventually and find some other bright shiny thing to play with. Gamaliel 06:58, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
I also have to disagree vehemently. Even if it were true, if it's not backed up by other sources, it doesn't belong in Wikipedia, nor do: 'untested theories; data, statements, concepts and ideas that have not been published in a reputable publication; or any new interpretation, analysis, or synthesis of published data, statements, concepts or ideas that, in the words of Wikipedia's founder Jimbo Wales, would amount to a "novel narrative or historical interpretation".' See: Wikipedia:No original research, Wikipedia:Verifiability. Eliot 13:00, 1 December 2005 (UTC)


This article is currently the lead on slashdot. This will not doubt lead to many new editors making improvements to the article that will all need to be subject to the usual scrutiny. -Splashtalk 13:19, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

Ditto - isn't there a special box on the main page you can put up to state this? I remember seeing it before, and I think it's needed. -Anonymous

Just calling an edit vandalism does not make it so

I just made a minor change to the article, changing "the article" to "this article" to help clarify that this is the article that Siegenthaler was upset with.

That change was reverted from an anonymous user with the comment, "removing vandalism". Just calling something vandalism does not make it so.

That shouldn't have been done, and probably wouldn't have been done by an established Wikpedian. -Splashtalk 15:07, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
It's also possible that it was done in error, trying to revert actual vandalism. When edits are hot and heavy, it can be difficult. -Fuzzy 16:03, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
Agree with you and above, but, stating that it was "this article" is to make a self reference, something we want to avoid, so the revert was fine. But it shouldn't have been called vandalism, of course. Shanes 16:27, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
This is an exceptional case, though. We can't avoid referring to this article when discussing Seigenthaler's criticism of it. ᓛᖁ♀ 16:36, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
This is true. We can refer to it in the third person (third article?) though. "The article..." has less of an introspective feel than "This article...", no? -Splashtalk 16:40, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
We can, and we should. Calling it "the article" instead of "this article" both looks (is) more professional (IMO) and it makes the article better suited for being distributed outside the wikipedia domain, which is something we encourage. If some other encyclopedia want to include articles from us, they are welcome to it and shouldn't need to go through every article to change "this" into "the". Read Wikipedia:Avoid self-references for more on this. Shanes 16:59, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
I'm not sure that making the distinction "the biography was not written on this mirror" is as important as explaining "the biography is an earlier version of the article you are reading". Regardless of whether it is copied, it's always true that the questionable material was part of an earlier version of the article being read. ᓛᖁ♀ 17:28, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

Make it clear that ANYONE can edit Wikipedia

I think it is time to have the words "that anyone can edit" appended to the phrase "Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia" at the top of all Wikipedia pages, not just the Main Page. This would be a subtle reminder that (1) what you are reading could be the product of anyone at all, and (2) if you think it is incorrect, you can correct it.-- 18:06, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

  • Doens't the Edit This Page button do that? The Land 18:10, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
  • Not in the Printable version.-- 22:12, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
  • And anyway, most people won't see the "edit this page" link -- it's a tiny box outside the section they're interested in (the article content). Those who don't browse the internet as much often important links and buttons on anything but a brilliantly designed interface (if you've ever done usability testing you can attest to that). Then, too, having a button doesn't tell half the story, especially now that wikipedia is widely used outside of the bleeding edge technocracy. Half the email on the wp-helpdesk mailing list is "Jesus! You have a huge security hole -- anyone can edit an article!" Tlogmer 16:44, 2 December 2005 (UTC)


When someone is murdered, everyone around them is a suspect. I don't see how this would be so horrible to anyone's reputation. It's not like it accused him of the murder. Hackwrench 00:59, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

Legal Warning

You are all quick to call it "libel", and label "the defamer", when it hasn't been through a court yet. No wonder this place has problems. I am not defending what was written -- I haven't read it -- but if this case shows anything, its that Wikipedians need to be judicious about the language they use when labelling others and labelling the actions of others. Sure, defamation cases frequently involve reversed presumption of innocence, but are you all sure that applies here at this stage? I doubt it. I doubt you even know what I mean. -- Spnspmbmartem 01:30, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

Clearly, what was said *was* false, *was* defamatory, *did* identify its subject and *was* published on the Internet. That spells libel to this journalist. Besides, whoever created the vandalous libel is anonymous, so the second leg of the libel stool - identification - is not present. Defamation, identification, publication. FCYTravis 02:02, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
First of all, Times v. Sullivan requires more than that for a successful libel claim by a public figure, which Seigenthaler is. Secondly, the original claim, according to the Siegenthaler article, was that he was purportedly "thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations". Kennedy assassination theories are a virtual cottage industry - has any major public figure not been implicated in them by some individual at some time? The original article quote does not claim that Siegenthaler was involved, only that someone "thought" him to have done so, and also noted that "nothing was ever proven". Siegenthaler would have a hard time making out a court case that he had been libeled by a JFK assassination theory. Did any of the literally hundreds of other people who were accused of complicity in the JFK assassination by far more widely distributed means ever sue the authors of those works? Firebug 04:43, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
I agree with Firebug. Plus, what nobody is mentioning is the opening phrase: "For a brief time". By any reasonable interpretation of that phrase, the author meant that in 2005, nobody thought Seigenthaler was involved. How can complete exoneration possibly be defamatory? --Arcadian 04:53, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
Not to mention that public figures are not entitled to per se damages in defamation suits. He would have to prove he suffered some injury. I'm willing to bet he was actually enriched as a result of all this attention. Peyna 16:00, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
I have read it, and it was defamatory. - Ta bu shi da yu 02:31, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
Well then, case closed. Cleduc 14:38, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
Ta bu shi da yu is not qualified to make that determination. Anyone familiar with American laws regarding libel knows he is wrong. I generally agree with Firebug, though I am not so sure Seigenthaler would be considered a public figure. You don't even need to know the law if you are capable of looking at the obvious circumstantial evidence: Seigenthaler was so angry over this, look at the lengths to which he has gone, as he set forth in the article he wrote. There is no doubt in my mind that Seigenthaler would have sued the alleged defamer unless his attorney advised him that the lawsuit had little to no chance of success, which is why Seigenthaler opted for the editorial instead. Seigenthaler is clearly upset in his article that he is unable to unmask the anonymous party without a Doe lawsuit. After all this anger and effort, why didn't Seigenthaler simply file a Doe suit? The obvious answer: because he knew he would lose. Kaltes 22:36, 5 December 2005 (UTC)

Page protection

I've protected this page, intending to remove protection in a day or so. Please feel free to remove the protection once it's no longer quite so prominent. Jamesday 12:03, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

This should be UNBLOCKED

Vandalism has not been overwhelming. Waste of precious traffic needed to improve this article. Lotsofissues 13:22, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

Seigenthaler is not calling Wikipedia evil, he's calling gossip and libel evil. Isn't that obvious? I get very tired of anonymous internet vandals on various websites whining about their freedom of speech, as if that freedom is somehow without responsibility. It is a childish complaint, and just because an anonymous criminal can't be traced doesn't mean there hasn't been a crime. Libel is not protected by the First Amendment, nor should it be. This was not an honest mistake, as some have implied. The line about the Kennedy assasination, weasel words or not, is clearly an attempt at libel without accountability. Such an explosive claim should be cited if it is not a commonly known thing. In this case it is not commonly known because it is patently false. Claiming that he "lived in the Soviet Union" is also libelous because where he lived during this time it so easily verified, and it is obviously an attempt to label him as a Communist (which he is certainly not). The line about him starting a PR firm just shows the libelor's sloppiness if nothing else, as the PR firm was started by his brother Thomas Seigenthaler.Nut-meg 19:21, 4 December 2005 (UTC)

The Main Article Under Protection is Not Accurate (as of Dec 5, 2005)

The locked article states:

"Between May and September 2005, the Wikipedia article on Seigenthaler contained a number of inaccurate statements, including allegations he may have been "directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby","

The actual 'inaccurate statement' mentioned was:

"For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven."

So the ALLEGATION was NOT that Seigenthaler was "directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby" INSTEAD the allegation was that for a BRIEF time (1 second? 1 year?) he was THOUGHT (by who?) to have been involved. The article as stated is worse than the inaccuracies it purports to discuss. Whoever wrote that into the current revision of the main article knew he was lying in his characterization when he wrote it. A more accurate and different characterization is as follows:

"Between May and September 2005, the Wikipedia article on Seigenthaler contained three allegations disputed by Seigenthaler. The first allegation, that "For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven." was unsupported, vague, and possibly malicious. The second allegation, that "John Seigenthaler moved to the Soviet Union in 1971, and returned to the United States in 1984" was demonstrably false, and the third allegation, that "He started one of the country's largest public relations firms shortly thereafter." was also demonstrably false.

Please correct the article once it is no longer under protection. The language I propose is just one example. The key change that must be made is that Seigenthaler was not being accused of murder, as the current revision of the article wrongly claims. I think the most NPOV way to correct this is to simply restate the language he takes issue with along with a neutral, accurate characterization of that language. Kaltes 09:01, 05 December 2005 (UTC)

Conduce to libel

I have updated this article with an explanation of where problems can occur. It's really to do with the providers. - Ta bu shi da yu 07:06, 30 November 2005 (UTC)

Why was this featured in the news? Anyway, I read the article by Mr. Seigenthaler... if he was offended, he or any one who knew him in depth should have reverted the changes or contacted an admin. It was just by chance that no one caught the mistake for that long. It's his loss if he thinks Wikipedia is a joke; the "millions" others mentioned in his article would vehemently disagree. --Madchester 07:19, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
For the record, Madchester is talking about Template:In the news... not in the news as in the USA Today! As for him believing the site to be a joke, I don't think he does. He's quite upset (justifiably) that some idiot libelled him. This said, I personally blame the providers for not assisting correctly. Don't forget that it a) took a lawyer, and b) it is a media personality with quite some clout before they even provided him with the information on how he could gain the personal details of the person who libelled him. - Ta bu shi da yu 09:00, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
P.S. it's ironic, but this is the question posed by Daniel Brandt on Wikipedia watch. The answer to Daniel and John is that they can ask a court to get the details from the provider, then they can sue the defamer. - Ta bu shi da yu 09:01, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
Not quite. Even when the changes are reverted in Wikipedia, the libelous comment could have (and has) already spread all over the web. "It was just by chance that no one caught the mistake for that long." No. It's quite normal. He is not Bush or Hitler, so very few people know about the guy. Very few could have corrected that information. I don't think Wikipedia is a joke, but I do think this is a serious problem.BorisG 07:27, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
But really, if very few could have corrected the information, then by implication very few should have seen the incorrect information. I would actually think that the number of people who reads a vandalised article before it is corrected remains fixed, regardless of the popularity of the article. But this is of course pure conjecture -- it would be interesting to investigate it further. Grahn 15:32, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
Your implication isn't correct. The number of people reading something is always likely to be considerably larger than the number who can contribute to it, no matter what the subject. With Wikipedia's increasing popularity, the proportion of people who come to it to find information, rather than contribute, is likely to increase. This means that we have to take incidents like this much more seriously. ianbetteridge 11:59, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
No, you are misunderstanding what I said. I never said that equally few should have seen the incorrect information as could have corrected it. What I said was that roughly the same number of people will read incorrect information before it is corrected, regardless how long it takes for it to be corrected. (Judging from the wikipedia statistics on the number of article edits versus article views, this number seems to be less than 10, if I interpret it correctly.) The only assumption I have made is that any random person reading an article is equally likely to be a person that will correct it. Of course, this likely not always true, but I don't think it is far from the truth in the general case. However, I share your concern for the credibility of wikipedia. Grahn 12:28, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
Well exactly. The (incorrect) assumption that you're making is that it is equally likely that a person who comes to an article like that will know that it's incorrect as not. Like it or not, Wikipedia is now used as a credible reference source by many, many people, spurred on by talk of it being in competition with traditional encyclopedia. This means that people visiting a specific page are much more likely to be there in search of facts than be capable of adding them. People would have gone to the John Seigenthaler page in search of facts about John Seigenthaler, not because they already knew about his life. ianbetteridge 14:57, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
I would say it is equally likely that someone goes to Bill Clintons page in search of facts they don't already know about and that could be wrong. But anyway, I clearly stated that it was a conjecture for my part, and from what I can tell so is your assessment. If you can present any actual statistics that proves the assumption incorrect I shall grant it to you in a hart beat, but until then I respectfully maintain my position. Grahn 15:34, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
Well, given that you made the first proposed hypothesis, I'd respectfully ask you to present some stats in support first! :) However, seriously, do you not think it's fairly obviously the case that as the popularity of Wikipedia as reference material increases, the proportion of active correctors will fall? This is certainly the case in every other social community I can think of. Either way, this is an interesting debate that we probably ought to take to somewhere else. ianbetteridge 16:57, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
Yeah, I agree that this will become an increasing problem. But as you say, the discussion probably belongs somewhere else (although I'm not entierly sure where). Grahn 17:59, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
Just to clearify it a bit further, while I'm at it: what I have assumed is that the probability P that a person visiting a section of an article A would correct vandalism, is roughly independent on the article in question. That is, for all articles A and B, P(A) is roughly equal to P(B). This does not mean that I am claiming P = 50% (I am guessing it is more like 10% at the moment), nor that P will remain constant in the future. Grahn 16:07, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification, and looking back I'm wrong to say that you think it's "equally likely". However, I'd still suggest that the actual proportion will fall, on the grounds the Wikipedia is becoming known for its encyclopedic scope, and this will attract more "readers" and less "activists". What's more, there's still the persistant problem that Wikipedia entries are hard to format for less-technical readers (it should be as easy as Writely, not as hard as TeX). ianbetteridge 17:04, 2 December 2005 (UTC)
It is a bit of a shame about the apparent vandalism that occured to the biography, but many things have to be considered with a project this large, and with this many users (the count at the time of writing was 620,139 registered users/editors):
  1. Not all articles that are featured in regular encyclopedias will be referenced. In this respect, Wikipedia is no different, and thus any vandalism that occurs in a little-referenced article can go largely unnoticed until, as is the case here, an accidental find exposes it.
    Also, it must be remembered that, despite the wide range of topics here, we all have our little specialities, so if someone isn't quite enthused by journalism, as an example, then of course they will largely miss the articles about major journalism figures.
  2. Vandalism occurs everywhere, in both the physical and virtual world, whether we want it to or not. And yes, some of it is offensive. And again, some of it is out of human sight most of the time. (This point ties in the one above.)
  3. Not all the contributors source their work (just about all the responsible ones will, but not all contributors are responsible). This can make it even more difficult to determine whether the information given is accurate or not. (Note that I didn't say 'impossible'.) Thus, yet again, vandalism can go unnoticed, especially to untrained eyes.
Now, this list isn't exhaustive, I'm sure; I'd be more prepared to say it's the tip of the iceberg. But I will say this much: Incorrect information is present everywhere (I could name names, however that'd just be little more than rude and inconsiderate). What we have to do is realise that it's incorrect, and either ignore it or, as it is in Wikipedia's case, remove it. --JB Adder | [[User talk:Jb-adder|Talk]] 09:18, 30 November 2005 (UTC)

Frankly, I think that only registered users with confirmed e-mail addresses should be allowed to edit. We cannot expect responsibility with no accountability. Anonymous posting is bound to lead to trouble.

Also, changes to any watched page, especially a user's Talk page, should optionally be e-mailed to the user, for those of us who contribute occasionally, but do not check our watched pages or Talk page every day. Wrolf 03:08, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

People taking themselves too seriously again

I find it ironic that he founded an organization promoting discussion of the First Ammendment.

He takes himself seriously as a person; Wikipedia takes itself seriously as an encyclopedia. There's a parallel here. -- Peripatetic 23:38, 30 November 2005 (UTC)
I don't see the irony. The 1st Amendment does not give people the right to say (potentially damaging) things that are untrue. Pacian 04:39, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
Actually I seem to recall a great case of FOX/Monsanto that showed falsifying the news isn't illegal. 15:13, 4 December 2005 (UTC)
But Wikipedia failed as an encyclopedia in this case - the vandalism was up for several months. OTOH in the last two days his entry has become far more thorough. Lars T. 16:16, 1 December 2005 (UTC)
Actually, this is one of the most important reasons why Wikipedia should pay attention to his criticism. ᓛᖁ♀ 14:09, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

I think the whole thing is laughable. Being offended by something you read on the Internet is as silly as believing what you read as graffiti on bathroom walls. 16:42, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

In this analogy, Wikipedia is the graffiti on the bathroom walls? I think that was Seigenthaler's point...
I'm sure those who have spent a lot of sweat and time trying to fine tune Wikipedia into a truly useful tool will be glad to hear your opinion.-- 09:44, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

Wikipedia failed because a user saw an error and did not correct it. Seigenthaler became a user the minute he entered an article. If you choose to use Wikipedia, you have taken the responsibility of correcting things you know are untrue. As well, how does he know for sure that the "vandal" hadn't read somewhere or seen a program to that affect (i.e., that Seigenthaler was believed to be involved in the assasination), which would mean it's not legally libel, because that was what the user believed to be true? Not only that, he took the problem to the wrong people. Congress has no jurisdiction over Wikipedia; it is not owned nor operated by the US government but is a public organization, meaning it can say or do what it wants and has the right to resolve inter-Wikipedia conflicts without government intervention. The ISP more than likely had it's hands bound because the "vandal" signed a Terms of Service contract saying the ISP could not hand out his information without a court order- meaning that Seigenthaler should have gotten a lawyer and a court order rather than trying to contact the ISP directly as a private citizen. To take umbrage to something and then respond to it incorrectively, and passively, as he did, is ridiculous. (Edited, I misspelled "correct it," which just proves my point, I guess.) --Jess 05:28, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

Funny, I've been told that Wikipedia isn't interested in the truth, only in verifiability. That left quite an impression on me, I must say. And now I see this? With people arguing THAT IT'S OKAY TO LIE IN THE ARTICLE BECAUSE THIS IS THE INTERNET AND THAT MAKES IT ALL JUST FINE? Do any of you have any idea how bad this looks?
If you honestly expect everyone who comes across this for reference use take time to edit the page himself, you're on crack. Sure, they have the ability, but they might and probably don't have the time, inclination, or even knowledge that it's possible necessary to do so. And as for Congress, for his objective he took it to exactly the right people. It's a natural reaction he's having; one I'd have too if people used one of the most popular websites on the planet to smear me. He wants to destroy this site; ruin it's credibility. Frankly, I don't see why it has as much credibility as it does in the first place. There are far too many idiots editing here to make it reliable in any way, and I think it's time we all realized that. Rogue 9 16:17, 5 December 2005 (UTC)
If Wikipedia wants to be taken seriously as an encyclopedia, it should not allow anonymous contributions. Otherwise it's just a glorified blog.Nut-meg 19:08, 5 December 2005 (UTC)
As for the "evil" of reporting gossip - maybe he should have levelled that at the press corps first. Most of the "news" reported these days is gossip - a lot of it is unsubstantiated gossip. At least the gossip gets corrected here eventually. Guettarda 08:05, 5 December 2005 (UTC)
I totally agree with you, but that's a whole different issue. It's not the press corps that has libeled him. If someone in the press corps had made the same charge, they would be accountable for their statements because their editors and news directors have some basic legal and ethical standards they are compelled to stick to. I know it's hard to tell, but they have to in order to keep from being sued. Even the tabloids source their stories, which is what makes lawsuits against them so difficult to win.Nut-meg 19:08, 5 December 2005 (UTC)