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December 11, 2005

Wikipedia "Vandal" Unmasked

The Wikipedia biography of John Seigenthaler which included false statements about him has turned out to be a practical joke gone badly wrong by a Nashville, Tennessee man.  Brian Chase has admitted to posting the false information which included statements that Seigenthaler was linked to the the two Kennedy assassinations and that he lived in Russia for a time.

The motivation came when Chase discovered Wikipedia and the fact that it would let anyone could contribute.  He mentioned this to a co-worker, worked up the post, and then showed it to the co-worker.  "It wasn't too long after that I told him that it was a joke, that I found this crazy Web site that anyone can put anything on, and that's all it was."  The more interesting statement he made is "I had no idea that anybody ever relied on that for truthful information, considering the way that anybody in the world with a computer can put anything on it at any time."

In fact, that's the rub this incident brought to light:  the issue of quality control.  Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia said that the site would make more information available about users.  In this case, Chase was tracked down by a sympathetic Texas citizen, Daniel Brandt of San Antonio. 

Chase apologized to Seigenthaler who accepted the apology.  Chase also resigned from Rush Delivery Service where he apparently used a computer to make the offending post.  Seigenthaler said he would not take legal action.

The details are in the Dickson Herald on the Tennessean.com web site.

December 11, 2005 | Permalink

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