Getting back control of information dissemination

In a recent Op-Ed piece John Seigenthaler Sr., lets us know about his understandable dissattisfaction with the contents of the Wikipedia entry about his person. He rants about the inability of legal discourse against libelous writers and prophecies a dark future where everybody can say what he wants to say.

I completely agree with Mr. Seigenthaler that libelous content anywhere should answer to legal discourse. His further actions document that, while difficult in the maze of participants (the service provider wikipedia, the ISP of the original writer, BellSouth, and the yet unkown original author of the ‘pedia entry), he can file a suit agains John Doe and persue due course of the law to take the perpetrator to task.

But what, in his anger about the contents of the entry, Mr. Seigenthaler seems to miss is the fact, that he himself could simply edit the page on Wikipedia, filling it with all kinds of true details about his live. If anybody disputes the information that he placed in the entry, it would be discussed in the attached forum. In the end a consensus could be reached, which he may or may not like. Regardless of his feelings, the contents of the entry have a high probability of being somewhat near the truth. Then every human, if able to understand the language used, may learn about Mr Seigenthaler in the wikipedia.

Now compare that with the mainstream media, for which Mr. Seigenthaler has worked the majority of his professional life. If somebody’s opinion is published in USA Today, it will be taken as fact by millions of (mainly) americans an there is not even a chance for a normal person to start a discussion about the validity of the claims. And it is a fact, that every published piece is only an opinion, culminating from the views of journalists, their editors, their publishers and the companies that own the companies that own the companies that produce a publication. Even if Mr. Seigenthaler could get a classical publisher to accept responsibility for publishing untruths, the revocation statement would be nowhere as visible as the discussion page of a wikipedia entry.

So I think, that we lean three things from this episode: a) Monitor the Wikipedia entry that covers you. b) Wikipedia has a higher probability for being close to some form of truth c) allways check the discussion entry .