December 13, 2005

Inherent faults and flaws  

Obviously inaccuracies on Wikipedia are frustrating, and I can see how this would be especially true if one were the victim of the inaccuracies. What I don't understand is how this justifies a class action suit, especially when the text of Wikipedia can be changed by any user (including the class members) without even creating an account. Surely correcting the details oneself would be a simpler proposition, and one with a better chance of success.

Also, doesn't the fact that anyone can alter a Wikipedia article kind of undermine any claim of negligence against the Wikipedia proprietors? There may be a legitimate case against individual posters, but I don't think anybody is out there stating that every article on Wikipedia is accurate. Context is important here. Nobody is suing Blogger for publishing libelous blog posts, but Blogger doesn't make any claims about the accuracy of material it publishes. Isn't the same true of Wikipedia?

Note that this doesn't necessarily diminish the value of Blogger or Wikipedia to readers, because readers can take responsibility for determining the value of published material themselves. This ideological divide -- between those who think information is something readers can influence and manipulate themselves and those who think otherwise -- is only going to deepen, because the underlying question is about the very nature of truth.

barrett  {December 13, 2005}

The case for a class action suit is clear - there are attorney's fees to be garnered.

This is one of the stupider lawsuits I can remember.

paul  {December 13, 2005}

Actually I'm not even sure where the attorneys' fees are here. Does Wikimedia have deep pockets? I was kind of assuming not, seeing as how they're not for profit.

BTD_Venkat  {December 13, 2005}

The chance of this being allowed to go forward as a class are slim (IMO). Roughly speaking in order to obtain certification of a class action you have to have numerous claims which lend themselves to adjudication in one proceeding. I'm not even sure what the claims are to begin with here, but I would guess at bottom people grumbling about wiki have weak defamation type complaints -- these are the only people injured by wikipedia. Damages and possibly liability would need to be individually determined and thus not amenable to class-based resolution. (Sidenote, even this complaint is probably not available because Wikipedia has immunity under a federal law.)

You guys are right. This lawsuit is pretty dumb.

Sarah  {December 16, 2005}

I think the lawsuit is pointless, because the web is full of places where you can publish anything you want, true or not. Wikipedia provides an easy way to do it, but all the zillions of blogs and forums do as well. Now more than ever, with such an easy way to spread information, the reader does have to be a little more careful about what s/he takes as fact. Your point, though, Paul about the reader influencing and manipulating material is only relevant when IDEAS are in question. In the Wikipedia cases, the point is that there was information in the entries that were not FACTUAL. "Truth" when it comes to philosophy can be a gray area..."truth" when it comes to basic facts about an individual's life is black & white.

Jonathan Versen("HZ")  {December 17, 2005}

Unfortunately, even ill-advised lawsuits of questionable merit can cause harm, if there's enough economic heft behind them.

For my part I wonder about the political affiliations of the people hatching this nefarious legal plot. It has the malignant odor of neocon about it. They really should be called neo-conmen, for that matter.

This makes me angry, and worried.

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