Wikipedia Publisher Seeks Dismissal of First 'Wikilibel' Suit

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Wikipedia Publisher Seeks Dismissal of First 'Wikilibel' Suit

Fri May 09, 2008 @ 03:20PM PST

Posted by Matthew Heller

Wikipedia The operator of Wikipedia has filed a motion to dismiss the first case of "Wikilibel," arguing that the federal immunity shield enjoyed by Internet service providers extends to a posting that described a literary agent as "The Dumbest of the Twenty Worst" literary agents.

The Wikimedia Foundation "falls squarely within the protection" of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the motion says, since Wikimedia is a provider of an interactive computer service and Barbara Bauer's defamation claims "assert that it is liable for publishing information provided by another information content provider."

Others, including retired journalist John Seigenthaler, have alleged they were defamed on Wikipedia but Bauer appears to be the first plaintiff to actually sue. The article about her, which is no longer available on the site, also said most of the agents on the "Twenty Worst" list "have virtually no documented and verified sales at all."

Section 230 has mostly been an impenetrable shield for website operators but some have questioned whether Wikipedia should have total immunity. "It presents itself as an online encyclopedia -- which has the connotation of reliability (and, in the past, edited content)," law professor Anita Ramasastry said in a Findlaw column. "We'd be foolish not to take blog postings with a grain of salt -- but what about an article that is characterized as an encyclopedia entry?"

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