In May 2005, an anonymous editor posted a hoax section in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia about journalist John Seigenthaler . [1] The article falsely stated that Seigenthaler had been a suspect in the assassinations of US President John F. Kennedy and US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy . The then-78-year-old Seigenthaler, a friend and aide to Robert Kennedy, the Wikipedia article about him as “Internet character assassination”. [2]

Seigenthaler wrote about his experience in USA Today . The incident raised issues about the reliability of Wikipedia and other websites with user-generated content That Lack the legal accountability of traditional newspapers and published materials. [3] In a December 13 interview, [4] co-founder Jimmy Wales expressed his undiminished support for Wikipedia. Vandalism-control strategy: “… we ‘


Brian Chase, an operations manager of Rush Delivery, a service department in Nashville, Tennessee . [5] On May 26, 2005, Chase added a new article that contained, in its entirety, the following text:

John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960s. For a short time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven.

John Seigenthaler moved to the Soviet Union in 1972, and returned to the United States in 1984.

He started one of the country’s largest commercial relations shortly thereafter.

Detection and correction

In September, Victor S. Johnson, Jr. , a friend of Seigenthaler’s, discovered the article. [6] After Johnson alerted him to the article, Seigenthaler e-mailed his friends and colleagues about it. On September 23, 2005, colleague Eric Newton copied Seigenthaler’s official biography from the Freedom Forum web site into Wikipedia. The following day, this biography was removed by a Wikipedia editor due to copyright violation , and was replaced with a short original biography. [7] Newton informed Seigenthaler of his action when he ran into Seigenthaler in November in New York at the Committee to Protect Journalists dinner.

In October 2005, Seigenthaler contacted the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, Jimmy Wales , who hid the Wikipedia administrators ‘ view. [8] In 2013, the hoax article was undeleted and archived to Wikipedia: List of hoaxes on Wikipedia . Some mirror websites not controlled by Wikipedia continued to display the older and inaccurate article for several weeks until the new version of the article was propagated to these other websites. [9]

Anonymous editor identified

Seigenthaler wrote an op-ed article describing the particulars of the incident, which appeared in USA Today , of which he had been the editorial director. [2] The article was published on November 29, 2005. In the article, he included a verbatim resting of the false statements and called Wikipedia a “flawed and irresponsible research tool.” An expanded version was published several days later in The Tennessean , a daily newspaper in Nashville, Tennessee, where Seigenthaler had served in various capacities from beat reporter to chairman. In the article, Seigenthaler detailed his own failed attempts to identify the anonymous person who posted the inaccurate biography. He reported that he had asked the poster ‘ S Internet service provider , BellSouth , to identify its user from the IP address . BellSouth refused to identify the user without a short order, suggesting that Seigenthaler file a John Doe lawsuit against the user, which Seigenthaler declined to do.

Daniel Brandt, a San Antonio activist who had started the anti-Wikipedia site “Wikipedia Watch” in response to objections he had to his eponymous article, looked up the IP address in Seigenthaler’s article, and found that it related to “Rush Delivery” A company in Nashville. He contacted Seigenthaler and the media, and posted this information on his website. [10]

On December 9, Brian Chase admitted he had posted the false biography to Wikipedia because he believed Wikipedia to be “some sort of joke Web site.” [11] After confessing, Chase was fired from his job at Rush Delivery. Seigenthaler received a hand-written apology clarification needed ] and spoke with Chase on the phone. Seigenthaler confirmed – as he had previously stated – that he would not file a lawsuit in relation to the incident, and urged Seigenthaler commented: “I’m glad this aspect of it is over.” He said that he was concerned that “every biography on Wikipedia is going to be hit by this stuff – think what they ‘ D do to Tom DeLay and Hillary Clinton , to mention two. My fear is that we have to go as far as possible to get a government regulation of the Internet as a result. ” [12]


Seigenthaler’s public reaction

In His November 29, 2005, USA Today editorial, Seigenthaler Criticized Congress for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act , qui Protects ISPs and websites from being white Held Legally responsible for content posted by Their customers and users: [2]

BellSouth, AOL, MCI, Wikipedia, etc. – from libel lawsuits. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996, specifically states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as a publisher or speaker.” That legalese means that, unlike print and broadcast companies, online service providers can not be sued for defaming attacks on citizens posted by others.

Vandals with poison-pen intellects. Vandals with poison-pen intellects. Congress has enabled them and protects them.

On December 5, 2005, Seigenthaler and Wales appeared jointly on CNN to discuss the matter. On December 6, 2005, the two Were Interviewed one National Public Radio ‘s Talk of the Nation program radio. Wales is a non-profit organization that has been involved in the development and implementation of a number of international agreements.

In the CNN interview, Seigenthaler also raised the specter of increased government regulation of the Web:

Can I just say where I’m worried about this leading. Next year we go into an election year. Every politician is going to find himself or herself subjected to the same sort of outrageous commentary that hits others. I’m afraid we’re going to get regulated as a result of that. And I tell you, I think if you can not fix it, both fix the history as well as the biography pages, I think it’s going to be in real trouble, and we’re going to be fighting to keep the government From regulating you.

In the December 6 joint NPR interview, Seigenthaler said that he did not want to have anything to do with Wikipedia because he disapproved of its basic assumptions. In an article Seigenthaler wrote for USA Today in late 2005, he said, “I am interested in letting people know that Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible research tool.” [2] He also pointed out that the false information had been online for over four months before he was aware of it, and that he had not been able to edit the article to correct it. After speaking with Wikipedia co-founder, Jimmy Wales, Seigenthaler said: “My ‘biography’ was posted May 26. On May 29, one of Wales ‘volunteers’ edited ‘it by correcting the misspelling of the word’ early.

On December 9, Seigenthaler Appeared is C-SPAN ‘s Washington Journal with Brian Lamb hosting. He Said He Was Concerned That Other pranksters Would try to spoof members of Congress or other Powerful figures in government, qui May Then prompt a backlash and turn back First Amendment rights on the Web.

In the June 2007 issue of Reason magazine, Seigenthaler also expressed concern about the lack of transparency underlined by Wales’ removal of the hoax pages from the article’s history page. He has also stated that many of the comments left by users in the edit summaries are things he would not want his nine-year-old grandson to see. [13]

Wikimedia Foundation reaction

In an interview with BusinessWeek on December 13, 2005, Wales discussed the reasons for the hoax had gone undetected and steps were taken to address them. [4] Wikipedia is a free and easy-to-use browser that allows users to view, edit, and edit web pages.

Wikipedia article about the author of this article: On subjects than most online sources. He stated that Wikipedia was a “work in progress”. [4]

A variety of changes were also made to Wikipedia ‘s software and working practices, to address some of the issues arising. A new policy, ‘ biographies of living persons ‘, was created on December 17, 2005; Editorial restrictions, including reference requirements, were introduced to the creation of new Wikipedia articles; And new tracking categories for the biographies of living people were implemented. [14]

The Foundation added a new level of “oversight” features to the MediaWiki software, [15] accessible as of May 16, 2012 to around 37 experienced editors and Wikimedia staff members nominated by either Wales or the Arbitration Committee . This Oversight Editors (Oversight Editors), which then became unable to be viewed by anyone except developers via manual intervention, though the feature was later changed so that other Oversighters could view these revisions to monitor the Tool’s use. Sometimes the procedures are standardized by the ‘Office actions’ policy which states: “Sometimes the Wikimedia Foundation has to delete, (S) to protect the environment. These edits are a temporary measure to prevent a personal injury and should not be undone by any user. ” [16]

Other reactions

In reaction to the controversy, The New York Times business editor Larry Ingrassia sent out a memo à son Entire staff commenting on the reliability of Wikipedia and writing, “We shoulds not be using it to check Any Information That goes into the newspaper.” [17] Several other publications commented on the incident, often criticizing Wikipedia and its open editing model as unreliable, citing the Seigenthaler incident as evidence.

Wikinews: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The scientific journal Nature conducted a study comparing the accuracy of Wikipedia and the Encyclopædia Britannica in 42 hard sciences related articles in December 2005. The Wikipedia articles were found to contain four serious errors and 162 factual errors, omissions or misleading statements, while the Encyclopædia Britannica also contained four serious errors and 123 factual errors, omissions or misleading statements. [18] Referring to the Seigenthaler incident and several other controversies, the authors wrote that the study “suggests that such high-profile examples are the exception rather than the rule.”

See also

  • Bertrand Meyer § Wikipedia hoax



  1. Jump up^ Cohen, Noam (August 24, 2009). “Wikipedia to Limit Changes to Articles on People” . The New York Times . Retrieved April 7,2012 .
  2. ^ Jump up to:e Seigenthaler, John (November 29, 2005). “A false Wikipedia ‘biography ‘ ” . USA Today . Retrieved October 27,2013 .
  3. Jump up^ “State of the News Media 2006.” The Project for Excellence in Journalism. Retrieved on September 14, 2009.
  4. ^ Jump up to:d Helm, Burt. “Wikipedia:” A Work in Progress ” ” . BusinessWeek Online . Bloomberg Businessweek . Retrieved October 16, 2013 .
  5. Jump up^ “The wiki principle” . Economist. April 20, 2006.
  6. Jump up^ Carney, John I. (February 13, 2006). “Seigenthaler battles online encyclopedia” . Shelbyville Times-Gazette . Retrieved September 30, 2014 .
  7. Jump up^ Archived versionof the rewriting of the official biography.
  8. Jump up^ Two deletion log entriesof the article.
  9. Jump up^ Dalby, Andrew (2009). The World and Wikipedia: How we are editing reality . Somerset: Siduri. p. 59. ISBN  978-0-9562052-0-9 .
  10. Jump up^ Terdiman, Daniel (December 15, 2005). “In search of the Wikipedia prankster” . CNET .
  11. Jump up^ Buchanan, Brian J. (November 17, 2006). “Founder shares cautionary tale of libel in cyberspace” . First Amendment Center. Archived from the original on February 12, 2007 . Retrieved October 4, 2011 .
  12. Jump up^ “Author apologizes for fake Wikipedia biography” . USA Today. December 11, 2005 . Retrieved October 27, 2013 .
  13. Jump up^ Mangu-Ward, Katherine (June 2007). “Wikipedia and Beyond: Jimmy Wales ‘sprawling vision’ . Reason Magazine : 20-29 . Retrieved March 8, 2016 .
  14. Jump up^ Restricted editing Wikipedia SignpostDecember 2005
  15. Jump up^ Ral315 (June 5, 2006). “New revision-hiding feature added” . Wikipedia Signpost .
  16. Jump up^ “Office actions” . Wikipedia . Wikimedia Foundation . Retrieved October 12, 2010 .
  17. Jump up^ “The New York Times Business editor Larry Ingrassia’s memo” Wiki-whatdia? ” ” . December 7, 2005. Archived from the original on March 8, 2006.
  18. Jump up^ Giles, Jim (December 15, 2005). “Special Report: Internet encyclopaedias go head to head” . Nature . 438 (7070): 900-901. Bibcode : 2005Natur.438..900G . PMID  16355180 . Doi :10.1038 / 438900a . Retrieved October 27, 2013 .


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