Feeds

There's no Wikipedia entry for 'moral responsibility'

Seigenthaler libeller unmasked - thought it was a joke site

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood - Despair.com

On Monday, in one of his now-weekly appearances on cable news defending the latest Wikipedia scandal, the project's figurehead Jimmy 'Jimbo' Wales expressed his desire to find the anonymous internet user who had libeled John Seigenthaler.

Seigenthaler, a former Robert Kennedy aide and newspaper editor wrote about his anguish a fortnight ago, describing how an edit to his Wikipedia biography implicated in him in the Kennedy assassination, and claimed he'd lived in Russia for twelve years. Both claims were false, and lay uncorrected for months.

For CNN viewers, and for NPR listeners again the following day, Wales repeated his wish to unmask the perp, but could only offer some hand-wringing excuse about the difficulty of finding anonymous users, and the complexity of serving internet service providers with subpoenas. However, we now learn that the libeler wasn't very hard to find, and has now stepped forward to confess to making the edit with an apology.

Brian Chase, a 38 year old employee of Rush Delivery in Seigenthaler's home town of Nashville, Tennessee, admitted to making the edit and has apologized to Seigenthaler. The reason he gave to the New York Times was most revealing.

Chase thought Wikipedia was a joke site and he made the edit to amuse a colleague. From which we conclude that the spoof site Uncyclopedia, which consists entirely of fictional entries, is doing far better than expected, and that Wikipedia has a long way to go to rid itself of the image that it's a massive, multiplayer shoot-em-up game, or MMORPG.

Chase has lost his job, and Seigenthaler joined the pleas to reinstate him.

But the unusual aspect of this - and this is an irony on a par with Sony using 'DVD' Jon Johansen's anti-DRM code in its DRM CD software - is what compelled Chase to step forward. The libeller was outed not by Wikipedia guardians, by a prominent critic of the site who has been earned himself a lifetime Wikipedia ban - researcher Daniel Brandt.

Chase left a fingerprint behind, in the form of an IP address, and Brandt discovered that the machine was active, traced it to Nashville, and discovered it was hosting a web server. The web server revealed the name of a company: 'Rush Delivery'. Brandt fired off a fax to Rush Delivery in Nashville and confirmed the connection.

Perhaps he'll be unbanned now, although we doubt it. But Brandt, who recounts his story in detail (grep for "whodunnit") says his discovery was extremely fortunate, and he's correct in many ways. Wikipedia has made it more difficult for such detective work to be performed in the future, as the site now requires a 30 second log-in procedure to create an unvalidated user id, behind which libellers can shield their identity.

That Wales couldn't fufil his expressed desire to unmask the perpetrator sounds less a case of "too hard to do" than one of "can't be bothered, mate".

So we come to the question of responsibility. We've promised to deal with the ethics of Wikipedia before, and it's no longer possible to ignore the elephant in the room, so we must.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.