So, you've been libeled on the Internet

My father, Prof. Bloom, has received the dubious honor of receiving an entry in a neo-Nazi Wiki site, which essentially copies whole-hog from Wikipedia and alters it with the usual rational-sounding filth. The site names itself Metapedia, and as such appears as trustworthy as Wikipedia (ahem), and is very high on the Google front page of hits for many topics.

I told him Mazel Tov and that that’s the way the world works nowadays.

Wikipedia goes apeshit about libel when anyone starts editing a “living-persons” entry. What are they warning about?

I don’t think Wikipedia has any specific rules against editing a living person’s entry.

However, they definitely care about people editing their OWN entry (and the anonymity of their process makes that a touchy thing) and they also have the usual rules about having any information you enter be properly referenced in a reputable source.

As long as your sources are in-line, and you’re not posting with a screenname that’s obviously the person the article is about, then I think you’ll be fine.

I am no expert on the subject and I’m sure there are others that can answer better. But I am also sure that I am not the only one who is confused as to what exactly your question is? Are you wondering about wikipedia’s policy or libel laws in the US?

Because it’s a moderated forum (although it displays only user-created content), uncited material could be attributed to Wikipedia itself. Cited material cannot; as a general rule, accurate reporting of third party allegations are considered per se nondefamatory.

Thus, if you post something about a living person and it upsets them, and Wikipedia can’t point to a third party source, it may wind up getting sued. Dead people and their estates can’t sue for libel (unless it occurred while they were alive, and that only in some jurisdictions) so you don’t have to worry about defaming them.

First, as I undertand it, they limit Wikipedia entries to at least moderately famous/public persons. Wikipedia does not want to become facebook for the pretenderati. (Or the Who’s Who of obscure participants in Literature, Music, Broadway, or College faculties, AFAIK).

Second, with some people (and even some obscure people, as your family situation indicates) the possibility is someone with an axe to grind, or just general troll poli, will make improper changes. (Think Colbert and Elephants…)

IIRC - the rules usually works out to - once you take on the cross, you are then responsible for that burden. If Wikipedia moderates comments and edits, then it is now responsible if it fails to find and remove problem ones. Sites that do not moderate have less responsibility (but obviously in Wikipedia’s case, it would have much less accuracy).

then tehre’s the kamikaze defence. You can sue, but all you do is draw attention and if the site is structured correctly, you spend a lot of money for no realistic gain; you win a domain anme that stops being a worthwhile destination, it’s easy to set up a new one, etc.

That seems strange. I actually have a Wiki page (it’s a stub in their terminology). I didn’t create it, but if there were a factual error, say my birth year, they’d prevent me from editing it? I do log into Wiki to edit with a name (based on my name and place of work) that would obviously belong the subject of the page.

Wow, that metapedia is strange. When you visit the first site it looks a completely respectable thing. Who could argue with an “electronic encyclopedia about culture, art, science, philosophy and politics.”?

And then you go to the english wiki of it.


Basically, OP, I don’t think there is anything you can do at all. Wikipedia is designed such that it can be forked, so this place using their article and then updating it with their own slant is permitted (so long as they adhere to the content liscence etc).

So it basically comes down to a straightforward libel case one way or the other - the Wiki aspect is a red herring. That’s something you’ll need a lawyer to advise you on.

By the way the page is visible in the UK, so feel free to use English libel law if you like. Contact a firm called Carter Ruck and see if they will represent you for free (I have no idea if they can do this) - they are very well known for extracting enormous damages and charging enormous fees.

Raymond Chen is a fairly famous Microsoft blogger. He was getting peeved off that his Wikipedia entry was misleading, and he was getting people come to him at conferences and such complaining about something they read in Wikipedia that wasn’t true.

So he logged into Wikipedia and tried to fix his own entry, but the edits were reverted because he’s not allowed to edit his own article. Even to fix incorrect information. Even to fix incorrect factual information with cites. Since he couldn’t police his own article and couldn’t control what other people added to it, he requested that Wikipedia delete it. Which they did.

Now that was all a few years ago, but that’s when I started digging a bit into how Wikipedia handles such things. The policies might have changed.

Rules against, no.

Yes. An entire Wikipedia guideline page.

Probably true. From WP:Autobiography:

Substitute “neo-fascists” for “patriots” and “clueless” for “liberal” and I don’t have a problem with that entry.

Regarding editing your own page:

Do you mean the Seigenthaler incident?

I didn’t know of it, and it’s interesting.

I guess the OP started out primarily on what the hell is the status of Internet libel law, and I remembered editing Wiki, and needless to say it has thoughts on the matter that are pertinent.

I flipped threw some of the references and deliberation pages of Admins, and it seemed very jungle-like.

So is standard US and state law, I suppose, and I was more interested in that, at the moment.

How Wikipedia, and Metapedia for that matter, internally administrate themselves is secondary.

I can add a few points of interest:

Metapedia is hosted in the Netherlands by Godaddy. Dutch ISPs tend to be somewhat resistant to attempts to take down content, but I’m not sure if that extends to Godaddy.

Under US law, the operator of an interactive web site such as a forum is not necessarily required to remove defamatory content that was posted by a user. In practice some web hosts will do so on receipt of a C&D or court order. Most will try to direct you to sue the site owner instead.

Complaining to the site owner will get you nowhere. A C&D drafted by a lawyer and sent to the web host (Godaddy) might be effective, but I doubt it. A complaint not written by a lawyer will get you nowhere.