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Daniel Brandt Wikipedia Article Discussion Continues  (View post)

József JÁROLI [PersonRank 1]

Sunday, November 6, 2005
14 years ago

Is Daniel Brandt a public person?

When I first read your post about this incident, I found it rather interesting, so quickly made two stubs in Spanish and Hungarian, intentionally anonimously. I just wanted to test how consistent the policies of different language versions are. Well, from the Spanish version it has been almost immediately removed --considered as advertisment--, while it remained untouched on the Hungarian version. So curioulsy enogh Daniel seems to be a public person for Hungarians. Or maybe not?

Daniel Brandt [PersonRank 3]

14 years ago #

Asking whether or not I'm a public person is to ask the wrong question.

There is no easy answer, and the gray area between public person and private person is much larger than the demographic of persons who can clearly be defined as public.

The proper question is whether publishing information on a person in a form that will be number one on the three major engines in a search for his name, is justifiable? If so, under what conditions? It is already number one on MSN search, and number eight on Yahoo, and I predict it will be number one on all three within a month.

The first question is whether it is justifiable if the subject of the article prefers that the article not exist at all.

The second question is whether the article, assuming it is approved by the subject, should be allowed to get vandalized, or changed, by anonymous persons at any time. When you click on the link in the search engine, do users often use the cache copy as opposed to looking at the current version of the article? If you use the current version of the article, are you obligated as a user to study the history behind the changes to determine if the article is in a reasonable state of repair? No, as a typical user, you won't do any of these things. Therefore, the subject is under tremendous risk even if he approves of the article at some point in its evolution.

The third question is whether Wikipedia takes steps to insure that all of the scrapers of their pages are required to update their scrapes on a regular basis in order to insure that distortions are not frozen by these scrapers. The answer here is obviously "no." The scraping is totally out of control. All the scrapers want is to grab content for their "made for AdSense" pages. They could care less about accuracy. To what extent is Wikipedia responsible for this situation? What steps have they taken to address this issue?

It is not okay for an editor to note that in the New York Times of October 5, 1968, it says that I burned my draft card. How many people have easy access to a 37-year-old article from the New York Times that mentions me on page 20? Compare this to how many people have easy access to the same information by putting my name into any of three big search engines. No court would agree that the two references are equivalent. The New York Times mention does not violate my privacy. The Wikipedia mention of the same information does violate my privacy. That's just one example. You cannot use a New York Times article from 1968 to justify broadcasting the same information in 2005 on Wikipedia, and claim that this is not a privacy violation because it is already public knowledge. If I was as public a person as George Bush it would be fair game. But I'm not, and it makes no sense at all to claim that I can be treated similarly.

And what about asking the subject if they want an article on them in Wikipedia in the first place? The most respected biographical reference work in the U.S., Marquis "Who's Who in America," determines whether someone is notable, and then asks them for biographical information. They started publishing in 1899. In rare cases they don't get a response from the person, and that person is so notable that it would be considered an omission if nothing appears. In such cases, they may do their own brief factual research and include it. But in almost all cases, they have the permission of the subject.

Contrast this with Wikipedia, where anonymous administrator SlimVirgin, who months earlier had criticized me on a Wikipedia talk page as unreliable and insignificant due to her own political agenda, decided to start a stub on me. This had nothing to do with Google-Watch, but thanks to Farhad Manjoo and Chris Beasley, these were the only "sources," which are biased for different reasons, she could find on me.

I was not notified that this stub was started on me on September 28, even though this administrator had contact information on me. I discovered it by accident. I complained to her and we worked on the article for a few days. At that point I was new to Wikipedia. After a few days I discovered her earlier comments about me on that talk page, and we still disagreed on the Manjoo link. By then it was beginning to dawn on me that I'd be fighting over these links forever. We agreed to a speedy deletion the article, as no one else had been involved in editing it at that point. She admitted to me that she lacked the power to keep it deleted.

Now Philipp Lenssen comes along, and discovers that yet another opportunity for defamation of my character, by way of the Manjoo and Beasley links, has been lost on the web. This is certainly the best opportunity yet, since Wikipedia is so highly-ranked on the engines. He complains on Jimmy Wales's page, and apparently gets another administrator, Canderson7, to revert the earlier deletion. Canderson7 is shooting from the hip, and doesn't bother to provide access to the deleted article as a point of departure. That's why Philipp, who is not an administrator, had to make up his own article. It's about ten times more objectionable to me than the one that SlimVirgin and I deleted, primarily because Philipp doesn't know anything about me apart from his dislike of Google-Watch. Most of the anonymous administrators are like trigger-happy secret police. By now I feel that SlimVirgin is one of the better administrators, and perhaps even regrets her original indiscretion.

An entire editing cycle starts all over again. I've been blocked for a week by some other shoot-from-the-hip administrator, because he considers my legal "fair warnings" to be threats that violate Wikipedia policy. I wonder if courts would make a similar determination.

I'm interested in compiling a list of John Doe editors and administrators, from John Doe 1 to John Doe 20 or so, with descriptions of their edits and comments, and filing a lawsuit against Wikimedia Foundation for their IP addresses. Then I'm interested in seeing if I can get names and billing addresses for these people from their Internet service providers. The crux of the case is getting the IP addresses from the Foundation. If the court allows that, then the rest is easier. Such a case, in other words, wouldn't be as expensive as it might first appear.

Here's a question: Will the above paragraph I just wrote extend my block from one week to one month? Or a year? Or a total ban? Or am I okay because this "legal threat," if that's what it is, was not made on Wikipedia itself? I'm sure the secret police will have to consult one another on that sticky issue.

What right do the editors and administrators have to remain anonymous? Do I have a right to know who is playing with my privacy? Why do they get to enjoy anonymity while destroying my privacy? I believe that this is a reasonable question.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Daniel, just to let you know, I dislike anonymous edits at Wikipedia as well. It gives people the right to vandalize and attack without the responsibility of putting their name behind this. Now I'm not saying I'd favor real-name registration. I just find it often leaves a bad aftertaste. I believe you do indeed have the right to ask why they can stay anonymous in this discussion.

When you say that the New York Times article was too old for any "normal searcher" to find it and therefore constitutes a privacy violation, I have to ask though why you often brought up the topic of the "amateurishness of quick Google-searching." Because now that someone obviously researched deeper into what may be an offline archive, you put it against that researcher as well.

I don't know what you made that now has you banned on Wikipedia. It may or may not be unfair, I can't comment on that.

As for the rest of your points, oh I wish you'd be more objective – again, you say I'm after you and Google-Watch and you say I have an axe to grind. I won't even reply to those points. Not everyone is out to get you Daniel. In fact, starting an article on someone isn't an attack at all. I've started articles on things I love most. And articles on things I am knowledgeable about, which is why I stumble upon Google-related stubs and articles (or in this case, a deleted article). You may say I am no expert of Daniel Brandt or that my original article was incomplete, but please see the other existing thread where I already explained that this is how Wikipedia works – no article is finished in its first version. That's why there's an edit button.

Jamie [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

It occurred to me today that if Daniel was protesting the war today, he would embrace new media (such as Google and Wikipedia) rather than fighting against it so much. Now the saying is vindicated: don't trust anyone over 30. And these lawsuits? You've become an agent of The Man :)

aaron wall [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

>The proper question is whether publishing information on a person in a form that will be number one on the three major engines in a search for his name, is justifiable?

Well to me if you are a social activist trying to spread information and ideas...who has done it for over 30 years... why be so anti technology? I mean, shouldn't you learn how to get people to pass authority your way? Shouldn't you be able to be the top result for your own name or have enough friends that help you make yourself so?

I have only been on the web less than 3 years and already I have the #1 and #4 result for your name.

I say that in a non mean manner. I am generally not a mean / mad person, and when you first contacted me you were nothing but rude when a kind email was all that was needed to get the desired result.

You forgot that when I mentioned you I was trying to help you. If you are always in attack mode you can be certain you are going to be working with limited authority.

Earlier it even sounded as though you ticked of Philipp, and I think that is kinda hard to do.

(IMHO, as the current #1 ranked Google result for your name)

GamingFox [PersonRank 2]

14 years ago #

>You cannot use a New York Times article from 1968 to justify broadcasting the same information in 2005 on Wikipedia, and claim that this is not a privacy violation because it is already public knowledge. If I was as public a person as George Bush it would be fair game. But I’m not, and it makes no sense at all to claim that I can be treated similarly.<

That's one of the most awkward quote I ever read.

If George W. Bush doesn't have the right to full privacy, then what make you think you have the right to full privacy too? I thought every U.S. citizen have equal rights.

George Bush is a U.S. citizen just like we are. I don't care if he is the President of the United States or the Pope or whatever position he holds. In my eyes, he is equal as us. After all, Thomas Jefferson wrote "all men created equal." which is the quote the American society been trying so hard to follow for almost 230 years.

Plus, New York Times is a public record; therefore, everyone have the right to use it as source. It doesn't matter if it is public knowledge or not, it is already out in the public. If we have to use public knowledge to use as source, then every newspaper in the world today are violating privacy for using public records instead of public knowledge. If newspapers use public knowledge instead of public records, then every newspaper will be extremely inaccurate.

For example, it is "public knowledge" that there are alligators in NYC sewers, does that make it true? There are many public records that said there are no alligators in NYC sewers, but 99% of Americans don't know those records. So we can't dispute this "knowledge" if we can't use a sewer worker's testimony from 5 years ago in order to protect the sewers worker's privacy?

Just my 2 cents.

Kyle [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

>The proper question is whether publishing information on a person in a form that will be number one on the three major engines in a search for his name, is justifiable? If so, under what conditions? It is already number one on MSN search, and number eight on Yahoo, and I predict it will be number one on all three within a month.<
You know what? Ranking on most search engines now is based largely on the number of incoming links to a page. Ever since you made a huge issue out of this, the number of links to your wikipedia article has skyrocked, raising it's pagerank and therfore it's positioning in search results. I doubt that most people would have even known about this article until you started complaining. You're the only one responsible for this so-called privacy violation.

Dan Tobias [PersonRank 6]

14 years ago #

[Removed a sentence. -Ed.] Of course it's not illegal in any way to "publish... information on a person in a form that will be number one on the three major engines in a search for his name". What part of "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech" don't you understand? There's no clause in there that reduces the amount of freedom of speech anybody has when they succeed in getting to the #1 position in Google with their speech. And there's no law that regards digging up an old New York Times article (a public record, even if buried in an archive now) and quoting from it (assuming such quoting is within fair use for copyright purposes); that can not in any way be construed as "invasion of privacy". Once again, there's nothing in the Constitution or the law that changes the degree of freedom of speech based on how many people actually hear you.

If you attempt any of those proposed lawsuits, you'll most likely be hit with countersuits that would prove very expensive to you; many states have anti-SLAPP laws to deal with suits like those. You could be the one who ends up losing his shirt.

Daniel Brandt [PersonRank 3]

14 years ago #

Yes, there is a threshold for libel that, in the U.S., differs for public persons and private persons. I am not claiming that the article on me exceeds this threshold. One of the reasons that I'm not ready to claim this, is because the article is in better shape now than it was several weeks ago.

And one big reason for this happy situation, is that thanks to my efforts to get it deleted, there are currently more editors and administrators patrolling the article for accuracy. I've made progress even if it never gets deleted.

However, if and when the threshold for libel is exceeded, I believe that if the libelous information is number one on all major engines, then this will have an effect on the damages that can be claimed. Don't forget that the damage can be done by one anonymous person just seconds before the article is consulted by some other person through a search engine. If this happens, the searcher won't know it, and may still assume that the article is of encyclopedia quality and accuracy. This is a liability problem for Wikipedia – there is no way to guarantee that the article at any exact point in time is non-libelous, because of the way Wikipedia works.

Of course the First Amendment doesn't consider the size of the audience. That's not the question. The question is, can you conceive of a situation where Wikipedia might be held liable for damages, due to its current mode of operation? And given the central role of search engines, and the ranking that Wikipedia enjoys, that the risk of damages is massively amplified?

My primary interest in the article on me at this point, is to try to determine whether the liability falls on the Board at Wikimedia Foundation, or falls on the individual administrators and editors who played a role in shaping the article.

It is easy to remain anonymous on Wikipedia while doing damage to someone's reputation. In this sense, I believe that the structure of Wikipedia is flawed. I am very interested in this issue. It's not a question of suing over this, as much as a question of, "If I felt that I had cause to sue, and I decided to sue, who should I sue?"

If I can help answer this question, then I think that I will have made a contribution to the development of a socially-responsible Internet.

Matthew J Brown [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

It sounds rather odd to me, Daniel, that as someone who has, in essence, made the spread of information their life's work, you would be so keen on encouraging the maximum chilling effect of the law upon others' free speech.

If someone posts libellous information about you, you should take it up with that person. Including with legal means, if you decide it goes that far.

Wikipedia doesn't want incorrect information in its articles. In fact, they go so far as to let you, and everyone else, remove incorrect information about yourself instantly. I think it is going rather far to insist that an online resource stop anyone ever posting anything defamatory about yourself or anyone else; that would have a very chilling effect on the freedom of speech, don't you think? That it can be removed instantly is as good as you deserve, frankly.

I also suggest that having a problem with a Wikipedia author taking information about yourself that is in publicly accessible archives and accurately quoting or paraphrasing it on Wikipedia is rather insane. If you have a problem with what e.g. the New York Times said about you, take it up with them.

Ta bu shi da yu [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

I hear a lot of information about U.S. civil law, but has Daniel considered that there are people contributing from other countries? Just a thought.

Ta bu shi da yu [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

OK, I'm re-reviewing the article. I have a few points and questions I'd like to raise:

1. Daniel has established a page to try to find out as much information as possible about the editors of Wikipedia. He has published this on a regular webpage, accessible by anyone. However, Daniel also appears to be concerned about his privacy, and wants the article on himself deleted only because of privacy concerns.

How does Daniel reconcile his efforts at publishing information about non-public persons on his website with his primary objection that the Wikipedia article publishes information about a non-public person?

2. What links in particular are inaccurate or unstable?

3. What information is inaccurate in the article and what information is defamatory?

4. What information is missing that you believe should be added?

5. What information is presented in a manner that is misleading, even though it is factually correct?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Ta bu, not to jump in but Daniel said at this moment, the article is an improvement and he's basically OK with it because it got so much attention for accuracy after the whole discussion. That should partly answer some of your questions. As for the old article, as far as I know Daniel was complaining about the focus on Google-Watch.org only (ignoring his past as political activist), as well as links to sites like Google-Watch-Watch.org. But I'll let Daniel answer the questions, especially the first one.

Ta bu shi da yu [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

Where has he written this? Certainly not on Wikipedia-watch. But I really would like to know his answer to the first question. It seems to me that he's got no leg to stand on...

Benjamin Constantine [PersonRank 0]

13 years ago #

This is a tricky issue... and i think the frist point you raise is the trickiest one. I think a more careful use of words can resolve these contradictions, and make sense of the huge flood of confused, angry sentiments that are flaming about.

Your first point raises this:

a) Daniel is collecting information on other editors of wikipedia
b) He wants his own privacy respected.

There is infact no contradiction here.
Daniel is not asking for privacy.
He is asking not to be slandered in public.

Moreover, in collecting his detractors names and addresses, he has done nothing to slander them, but brought them out in the same way that he was.

The simple fact is that he has been, and that this was done with impunity by anonymous users, and that he didn't have the opportunity to defend himself.

Or should i say, any practical way of defending himself.

There is a naive argument that says that anyone can go on and correct information.
The problem is that EVERYONE has the ability to put wrong information up.

Your later points all refer to the particulars of how he was slandered-- and i understand you confusion, as there doesn't appear to be anything particularly bad about him now.

This is infact because he has complained, and people have taken his side. In the past it has been slanderous, and the courts have decided in his favour.

Moreover, the page- though fine for the moment- can change at any moment, and become slanderous again. Right now the page gets changed some 500 times a day.

...

His problem is that he doesn't want to live in fear of this.

I say fair enough.

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

13 years ago #

> I believe you do indeed have the right to ask why they can stay anonymous in this discussion.

Wikipedia editors can stay "anonymous" only because the use of the word as such is abused. They are less anonymous than a logged in user. We can track them down, as Brandt, ironically, himself showed.

> Asking whether or not I'm a public person is to ask the wrong question.

No – you are a public person. You have published works and have been cited and discussed in mass media /for decades/.

> The proper question is whether publishing information on a person in a form that will be number one on the three major engines in a search for his name, is justifiable?

Google-watch-watch rightly owns that title. Besides, Philipp has the #1 search for my name, but only because i've drawn attention to myself here. And /you have drawn attention to yourself at Wikipedia/.

> Therefore, the subject is under tremendous risk even if he approves of the article at some point in its evolution

They can simply link to a particular version. Revision links are plainly provided.

> How many people have easy access to a 37-year-old article from the New York Times that mentions me on page 20?

297,968,164 people. That's right, count em'. Every single United States citizen has free access to this information at the Library of Congress. This was funded by their tax dollars. Yours is a mute point.

This thread is locked as it's old... but you can create a new thread in the forum. 

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