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Flagged Revisions: how Wikipedia could have prevented anonymous defamation. And didn’t.

By Andreas Kolbe

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One of the worst things about Wikipedia is how it provides a platform for malicious, anonymous slander. It did not have to be this way.

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy’s dad was recently defamed as a Nazi collaborator in Wikipedia, and the hoax spread instantly to other websites, including one news website which reported that the spurious information had been removed, and now claimed the article was “censored”. Levy had to employ Haaretz’s lawyer to have the article withdrawn, an option not open to everyone, as he rightly observes:

Wikipedia had published, for one day apparently, information planted there, that my father, Dr. Heinz Levy, had collaborated with the Nazis and therefore was awarded the position of district legal adviser under that horrific regime. When he came to Israel, he changed his name from Heinz to Zvi in order to blur his past, it added. All of this was reported by Rotter and a picture was added of the page in Wikipedia before it was “censored.”

I was in shock. I have been the subject of quite a few aspersions before but never anything like that. What can be done about slander of this type? How does one start to refute a revolting lie which in another second will spread like wildfire among the virtual thorn fields of the Internet? […]

Wikipedia published the information, even if only for a very short time. Only the decisive intervention of Haaretz’s lawyer, attorney Tali Lieblich, who sent a sharply worded letter to the management of Rotter, led to the (immediate) removal of the slanderous item. Not everyone has a lawyer, or a friend who brings to his attention the fact that he has been slandered on the Web. From my point of view, the

…continue reading Flagged Revisions: how Wikipedia could have prevented anonymous defamation. And didn’t.