Sunday, December 11, 2005
Beware the Wrath of Bloggers III: Wikipedia Hoax Causes Seigenthaler Pranskter to Lose Job
Some of you may have been following the saga of John Seigenthaler, Sr., former aide and friend of the late Robert F. Kennedy, and founder of the First Amendment Center, who claimed that he was allegedly defamed by the on-line Encyclopedia, Wikipedia. In particular, the material on Wikipedia, until recently, suggested that Mr. Seigenthaler had been involved in the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy.
Seigenthaler wrote about it in an op-ed article in USA Today, expressing his outrage over not being able to find the perpetrator of the false Wikipedia entry and with Internet privacy laws in general. Many blogs covered the story, including Dan Solove of Concurring Opinions.
It now turns out that the man responsible was one Brian Chase of Nashville, TN, who admitted as much to Seigenthaler himself this past Friday. According to the Sunday Times article, Chase wrote a confessional letter to Seigenthaler, saying he thought "Wikipedia was a 'gag' Web site and that he had written the assassination tale to shock a co-worker, who knew of the Seigenthaler family and its illustrious history in Nashville."
Now Chase is without a job. Apparently, Daniel Brandt, a frequent critic of Wikipedia and who had started an anti-Wikipedia Web site (www.wikipedia-watch.org) in September after reading what he said was a false entry about himself, utilized information in Seigenthaler's article and some on-line tools to traced the computer that had made the Wikipedia entry to a delivery company in Nashville:
Using information in Mr. Seigenthaler's article and some online tools, Mr. Brandt traced the computer used to make the Wikipedia entry to the delivery company in Nashville. Mr. Brandt called the company and told employees there about the Wikipedia problem but was not able to learn anything definitive.
Mr. Brandt then sent an e-mail message to the company, asking for information about its courier services. A response bore the same Internet Protocol address that was left by the creator of the Wikipedia entry, offering further evidence of a connection.
Finally, a call by a New York Times reporter to the delivery company on Thursday made employees nervous, Chase told Seigenthaler. Chase later resigned from his job because he did not want to cause problems for his company. Seigenthaler has urged Chase's boss to rehire him, but so far Chase is still without a job.
Oh, the wrath of bloggers!
Update: Yahoo! News: Seigenthaler does not plan to pursue legal action against Chase.