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Pro golfer sues over Wikipedia postings

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Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller is suing to track down the Wikipedia user responsible for posting claims he abused alcohol and drugs and treated his family harshly, and an education consulting firm in South Florida has found itself caught in the cross fire.

The law prevents Wikipedia from being named as a defendant, so Zoeller's attorney has targeted Josef Silny & Associates of Miami, whose IP address was used to publish the allegedly defamatory remarks. The vandalizing posts were last made on Dec. 20 and have since been removed, according to the Miami Herald.

Wikipedia's encouragement of open user participation has allowed it to amass a quantity of content that rivals venerable and more established publications such as Encyclopedia Britannica. The rub: the anyone-can-publish approach leaves the nonprofit site wide open to gross inaccuracies.

In late 2005, John Seigenthaler, a former assistant to Robert Kennedy, found his name besmirched after a Wikipedia prankster falsely said Seigenthaler had traveled to the Soviet Union in the early 1960s and had suspected involvement in the assasinations of both of the Kennedy brothers. Jens Stoltenberg, prime minister of Norway, has also been dragged through the mud, while politicians in the US have watched their biographies purged of facts that were unbecoming to their reputations.

Zoeller's complaint suggests that measures Wikipedia took following the Seigenthaler incident aren't enough to keep patently false information off its system. Founder Jimbo Wales says volunteers work hard to police content.

We take Wikipedia at its word when it says Zoeller has chalked up six PGA wins, two of them major championships. However, he has not been untouched by controversy of a less manufactured sort. He once referred to golf superstar Tiger Woods as "that little boy" and admonished him not to eat fried chicken or "collard greens or whatever the hell they serve," remarks that many branded as racially derogatory in light of Woods' African-American roots.

Zoeller is suing to clear his family's name and to set a precedent. Josef Silny said he was surprised to learn of the complaint and isn't aware who at his firm might have made the postings. ®

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