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Golfer Sues Over Vandalized Wikipedia Entry 267

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the setting-the-record-straight dept.
coondoggie writes "Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller is suing to track down the author of what Zoeller says is a defamatory paragraph about him on the Wikipedia site. In an Associated Press story Zoeller's attorney, Scott Sheftall, said he filed a lawsuit against a Miami firm last week because the law won't allow him to sue Wikipedia."
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Golfer Sues Over Vandalized Wikipedia Entry

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  • So what's the story? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Southpaw018 (793465) * on Thursday February 22, 2007 @10:55PM (#18117914) Journal
    So what's the story...the fact that he's doing the right thing here?

    He's suing the correct person for (if the accusations are true - and you've seen Wikipedia troll edits, they probably are) a legitimate reason. So the story is that he's not an idiot suing Wikipedia like the rest of the idiots would?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SilentChris (452960)
      I think Slashdot wants the community to foam at the mouth about the *potential* breach of privacy Wikipedia could be involved in by revealing the poster (or, at least, revealing where the poster posted from). Of course, Slashdot is relying on the fact that most people won't RTFA and see that Wikipedia hasn't even been formerly notified by the lawyer brigade. Never mind that the IP is freely available on the Wikipedia page's history. So, in short: Slashdot wants Slashdotters to foam at the mouth so they g
      • by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:12PM (#18118046) Homepage
        Interestingly, it looks like someone at WP deleted much of the page's history. Maybe now they can also be sued for destruction of evidence.
        • by kubrick (27291) on Friday February 23, 2007 @12:10AM (#18118424)
          I'd presume that's because people viewing the article can also go back and view historical versions, which would be continuing the publication of defamatory statements. I'm sure whoever did this will have kept an archived copy to be produced on demand.
        • As a Wikibook administratos I can tell you that the WikiMedia software never deletes anything - it is just hidden from the general public. If you have a legitimate reason to look at deleted entries you can ask an Administrator to make the data available to you.

          Martin
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            s a Wikibook administratos I can tell you that the WikiMedia software never deletes anything - it is just hidden from the general public. If you have a legitimate reason to look at deleted entries you can ask an Administrator to make the data available to you.

            Under Wiki's license shouldn't everything, including edits, be available to anyone? If not then you have a loophole that others can exploit to avoid complying with the license.
            • Interesting point. However, there are several resons why not:

              1) Page-Name typos - why keep them online?
              2) SPAM
              3) Illegal content
              4) Unwanded content - Each wikipedia project has a mission and will not accept content which is utside scope.

              If you disagree in a particular case you can file a "vote for undelete" and ask the adminstrators to make the content available.

              Martin
            • The gfdl only requires attibution of material so if the material is no longer there its history doesn't have to be either.

              even if the material is there i don't think full development history of it is required, thats just the easiest way for a wiki to provide attibution.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Brian Gordon (987471)
          It's called Oversight [wikipedia.org]. Very few admins have this ability, and it's tightly regulated. I'm guessing the rationale for this case is Removal of potentially libellous information ... when the subject has specifically asked for the information to be expunged from the history, the case is clear, and there is no editorial reason to keep the revision.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Supercrunch (797557)
          Wikipedia probably gets vandalized every minute of the day. In this case, it'd be relevant to know how long the offending paragraph existed in the article before being reverted. If another editor caught it and reverted it within a few hours, I hope the court would find this kind of lawsuit to be frivolous. If The Wiggles [wikipedia.org] filed a lawsuit every time somebody posted how "gay" they were, they'd be rich. (Oh wait, they are. Rich, not gay).
      • So, in short: Slashdot wants Slashdotters to foam at the mouth so they get more pageviews. Pretty common tactic.

        Huh. I'm not foaming, and I learned something from /. today. Call me stupid, but I didn't know the process for going after a malicious poster of Wikipedia entries...

    • by squiggleslash (241428) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:11PM (#18118044) Homepage Journal

      The article actually links to answers.com's mirrored copy of the libel [answers.com], which makes for interesting reading. Without wishing to repeat the libelous allegation itself, it essentially comprises of Zoeller supposedly confessing to a large number of relatively unpleasant personality flaws and associated actions.

      Given the way its presented, I can understand someone wanting compensation after reading that about themselves.

      • by timeOday (582209)

        I can understand someone wanting compensation after reading that about themselves.
        You mean, like, an apology?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Trogre (513942)
      So what's the story...the fact that he's doing the right thing here?

      He's suing the correct person for (if the accusations are true - and you've seen Wikipedia troll edits, they probably are) a legitimate reason. So the story is that he's not an idiot suing Wikipedia like the rest of the idiots would?


      I'm guessing you're from somewhere in the United States of America?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Hmm. Someone tells lies about you that might damage your reputation or livelihood. You want them to stop. Do you

        a.) send someone to break their kneecaps
        b.) smear shit all over their car
        c.) call them lies back and sleep with their sister
        d.) follow the legal remedy that has been established for centuries and appeal for relief against the harmful action?

        Oh that's right. Except in America, the right thing to do is (b).
        • by ColaMan (37550)
          e) Say, "Meh. So what?" and go on to live a public life and create enough "good" evidence that would make such claims laughable?

          Makes me wonder sometimes that maybe a bit of introspection after things such as this wouldn't be such a bad thing.
          "You know, I am a bit of an ass sometimes. Maybe I should try to be a better person, so I don't have to sue all and sundry over the snarky comments they make."
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by blanks (108019)
          "Hmm. Someone tells lies about you that might damage your reputation or livelihood. "

          Yes but it also has the reversed affect, where companies and people can now sue anyone or everyone for posting/saying anything negative about them.

          So for example you can not post on a rating site your opinion based on an expierence of a company/services unless its good without fear of a lawsuit. Which I had to deal with 2 years ago.
        • by LizardKing (5245) on Friday February 23, 2007 @06:06AM (#18120294)

          Hmm. Someone tells lies about you that might damage your reputation or livelihood. You want them to stop. Do you

          a.) send someone to break their kneecaps
          b.) smear shit all over their car
          c.) call them lies back and sleep with their sister
          d.) follow the legal remedy that has been established for centuries and appeal for relief against the harmful action?

          Oh that's right. Except in America, the right thing to do is (b).

          Depends on how hot their sister is, otherwise it's poo time.

        • by morie (227571)
          sleep with their sister

          Can we? What does she look like (then again, this is slashdot, who cares)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Lars T. (470328)

      So what's the story...the fact that he's doing the right thing here?

      He's suing the correct person for (if the accusations are true - and you've seen Wikipedia troll edits, they probably are) a legitimate reason. So the story is that he's not an idiot suing Wikipedia like the rest of the idiots would?

      Errm, he's "doing the right thing" because the law won't allow him to sue Wikipedia. "Courts have clearly said you have to go after the source of the information," Sheftall said.

      Doing the right thing because you can't do the wrong thing isn't really doing the right thing, is it?

      • by suffe (72090)
        Sure it is. If you are doing the right thing for the right reason is another matter.
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @10:55PM (#18117918) Journal
    Did he legitamately say that stuff, or is it just made up stuff about him? If he really said it, why should it not go on his permanent record?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:06PM (#18118002)
      He did say the stuff about Tiger Woods, and he did apologize and withdraw from the US Open that year as a result. The rest was apparently made up by the vandal - some pretty vicious stuff about wife-beating, based on the copy that was linked. I don't blame him for suing.

      BTW I remember his open apology to Woods which he read aloud at a press conference, and it was actually was very nicely done. 100 percent different from the half-hearted, ghostwritten-by-my-agent "apologies" we're accustomed to hearing from the likes of Tim Hardaway, Nick Saban, etc.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by uvajed_ekil (914487)
        He did say the stuff about Tiger Woods, and he did apologize and withdraw from the US Open that year as a result. The rest was apparently made up by the vandal - some pretty vicious stuff about wife-beating, based on the copy that was linked. I don't blame him for suing. BTW I remember his open apology to Woods which he read aloud at a press conference, and it was actually was very nicely done. 100 percent different from the half-hearted, ghostwritten-by-my-agent "apologies" we're accustomed to hearing fro
        • by Dogtanian (588974)

          So if someone makes up defamatory things about Fuzzy, that person has opened himself up to punishment.

          Only for what he's said, and no more. If someone thinks what he's said is bad, then they're entitled to dislike or hate him on the basis of that, but not on the basis of something he hasn't done.

          Implying that it's valid for someone to throw false accusations at someone else because that person originally did or said something bad is the thin end of the wedge, and has massive potential to act as leverage for abuses of the justice system.

          If the thing the person did/said in the first place is that bad, it

        • by DJCacophony (832334) <<v0dka> <at> <myg0t.com>> on Friday February 23, 2007 @10:51AM (#18122138) Homepage
          Jesus Christ, there is so much wrong with your post I don't know where to begin.

          1. "Nigger" is an insult no matter who says it. Differentiating between different races like you're doing and assigning them different levels of free speech based on their color is extremely racist.

          2. It is an insult, a worded personal attack. It causes no direct physical harm. It is as excusable as any other insult; moron, jackass, cracker, loser, etc.

          3. There are sometimes people that deserve to be insulted. People generally acting like a complete jackass. For instance, a group of trolls who buy tickets to a Michael Richards show with the intent to heckle him the whole time, and then do just that.

          4. Don't even begin to talk about people's "true feelings", because the only true feelings you know about are your own. Don't pretend to know how other people feel, and don't even try to judge somebody's feelings and personality based on one remark they make.
    • by alienmole (15522)
      His "permanent record"? That's an intimidation tactic used to keep schoolchildren in line. Zoeller's not in high school.
      • by David_W (35680)

        His "permanent record"? That's an intimidation tactic used to keep schoolchildren in line.

        Yeah, in the working world they call it your "HR file."

  • hmm? (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @10:56PM (#18117926) Homepage
    Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller is suing to track down the author of what Zoeller says is a defamatory paragraph about him on the Wikipedia site.

    Is that the one that says the number of lawsuits he's filing against Wikipedia has tripled in the last six months?
    • "Is that the one that says the number of lawsuits he's filing against Wikipedia has tripled in the last six months?"

      Unprecedented in the 759 years of American History. When Wikipedia was formed at the Magna Carta Summit I'm sure they never thought this would happen.

    • Re:hmm? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by quanticle (843097) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:46PM (#18118276) Homepage

      To repeat another poster: This guy isn't suing Wikipedia. He's suing someone who edited his Wikipedia page to include information that was allegedly defamatory.

      As I see it, he's doing the right thing here. Mr. Zoeller's quarrel isn't with Wikipedia, its with the guy who edited his entry. That's the way that Mr. Zoeller is pursuing it. He's filing a "John Doe" lawsuit (the kind made famous by the RIAA) against the person associated with the IP address source of the edit.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        yeah, but think about it- the guy's never sued Wikipedia in the past, therefore his lawsuit count against Wikipedia before this past six-month period is zero. Tripling the lawsuit count in this six month period is 3(0), which of course equals 0. The GP is quite valid :) And I do agree that Mr. Zoeller is going about this lawsuit in the correct way- Wikipedia can't fully police all of their poster's comments, and the comments are the responsibilites of the posters.
      • As I see it, he's doing the right thing here. Mr. Zoeller's quarrel isn't with Wikipedia, its with the guy who edited his entry. That's the way that Mr. Zoeller is pursuing it. He's filing a "John Doe" lawsuit (the kind made famous by the RIAA) against the person associated with the IP address source of the edit.

        I think the "right" thing to do here would be to say: "That guy is wrong, and an idiot, and that information is false." The RIAA's tactics are questionable at best, and Zoeller's critics are right

  • Clarification (Score:5, Informative)

    by torstenvl (769732) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @10:57PM (#18117940)
    He didn't sue the law firm because he can't sue Wikipedia so much as he sued the origin of the IP address from which the edits came (which happened to be a law firm) rather than Wikipedia , because he was unlikely to win against Wikipedia. Strictly speaking, there are very few cases (none that I can think of) where you just can't sue (whether the suit survives a 12(b) motion to dismiss -- especially 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6) -- is another issue entirely).
    • by ad0gg (594412)
      So he sues John Does since he doesn't know who the person is. Whats the point of bringing civil litigation against an unknown person? Can you actually go to court and win a case against an unknown person?
    • by rmstar (114746)

      The fact that he can't sue wikipedia is definitely a problem, and a loophole in the current legal system. The "anything goes, we do what we want and fuck you" mentality of constructions like wikipedia should be eliminated. At the very least, they should be forced to permanently remove entries on people who do not want to have articles about them. The fact is, he should be suing both.

      I don't buy the "free speech" argument. That much "freedom" is totalitarian. It leaves no choice for those at the receiving

  • He was asking for it.
  • by straponego (521991) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:02PM (#18117974)
    ...that Zoeller has the time for this, what with all the baby-eating. And all the times he spends selling dope to school children disguised as a nun.

    /me eyes "Post Anonymously" button thoughtfully.

    • by maxume (22995) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:12PM (#18118052)
      It's worse than that...he's a professional golfer.
      • It's worse than that...he's a professional golfer.

        Such allegations!!! Next you'll be saying that he's a pro bowler. Oh, the horror!

        :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by _xeno_ (155264)

      Ironically, though, if you "post anonymously" on the Wikipedia, your IP address becomes public, so you're easier to track down.

      It's much better to post using a user account, because while then your edits are tracked across IPs, the only people who can track you down are admins with what I think's called the "checkuser" privilege. Whatever it's called, it's the privilege to check a user's IP.

      So remember, when trolling people on the Wikipedia, don't do it AC-style. Create a sockpuppet instead.

    • ...but why are school children disguising themselves as nuns?
      • by Kris_J (10111) *

        "...but why are school children disguising themselves as nuns?"
        To hide from professional golfers.
      • by schon (31600)

        but why are school children disguising themselves as nuns?
        Duh ... so they can buy the dope without being carded!

    • STERN!
  • I would think it highly optimistic to think that Wikipedia can't be sued.

    Even if there's an argument that Jimmy Wales and the Wikimedia Foundation aren't responsible for the content - and I'm a bit skeptical about that - there will still be people who will launch suits just to get information removed.

    Ultimately Wikipedia will either wind up caving to anyone who complains, or spending many, many thousands of dollars on lawyers defending themselves.
    • by Nasarius (593729)

      Even if there's an argument that Jimmy Wales and the Wikimedia Foundation aren't responsible for the content - and I'm a bit skeptical about that
      Oh? Can I sue Slashdot if someone posts a libelous comment? All of the content of Wikipedia is user-created.
    • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Friday February 23, 2007 @12:03AM (#18118372) Homepage
      I would think it highly optimistic to think that Wikipedia can't be sued.

      No. As I mentioned elsewhere under this story, Wikipedia can't be sued for libelous information put there by users, by virtue of the only good part of the CDA, 47 USC 230. No need to be skeptical about it; it's been applied numerous times in the decade or so it's been around, and it is very protective of people and service providers online who aren't the original sources of the information at issue. Look it up.
  • When he made the racist comments, he cries it was the whiskey and vicodon talking. Exactly who is talking now?
  • Fuzzy (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:15PM (#18118068) Homepage
    With a name like that, I'd be suing the hell out of everybody just to get on TV.

    In case someone is wondering what makes Fuzzy notorious, here's the goods [youtube.com]. Pretty stupid, but he apologized later (and I think very well).

  • Fuzzy (Score:5, Funny)

    by EnsilZah (575600) <EnsilZah@GmailGI ... minus herbivore> on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:16PM (#18118078)
    He can't sue Wikipedia, so he's suing the next closest target.
    Sounds like Fuzzy Logic to me.
  • This sueing becuase he/she said bad things that you don't like seem wrong somehow, at the very list unnatural. I'm sure it seems like the civilized thing to do, however I just not comfortable with this litigation happy environment.
    • by quanticle (843097)

      Well, if he wrote bad things about you and published them, that's libel, and its illegal. Under your system, I could put up a website or a Wikipedia entry saying all sorts of terrible things about you, and you'd be powerless to stop my assaults upon your character.

      However, if I have reason to believe that the things I wrote were true, then I've got an exemption. This golfer could also be classified as a public figure (such as a politician or celebrity) which would change the rules some more.

      IANAL btw.

      • by pembo13 (770295)

        Well, if he wrote bad things about you and published them, that's libel, and its illegal. Under your system, I could put up a website or a Wikipedia entry saying all sorts of terrible things about you, and you'd be powerless to stop my assaults upon your character.

        I aggree, he's free to say what he wants, and I'm free to dislike him for it.

        • Yes, but then you're in deep doodoo when people who've never met you nor him hear or read what he's said and they take it as truth, then when you need that person, it comes back to haunt you.

          Character assassination is wrong, and should be punished. That's why there are defamation lawsuits.
  • In the words of 'Judge Judy' Sheindlin: "The truth is an asbsolute defense against any claim of libel"
  • ...whom my dad heard, on a nationally-televised golf game, when he missed a putt, say, "Goddamned fucking day!" under his breath. It's still a catch-phrase to us. So based on that criterion alone, I *like* Zoeller. Well, as much as one can like a golfer at all. ;)
  • by moochfish (822730) on Friday February 23, 2007 @12:36AM (#18118624)

    Later Zoeller went public with his alcoholism and prescription drug addiction, explaining that at the time he made those statements, he was "in the process of polishing off a fifth of Jack (Daniels) after popping a handful of vicodin pills". He further detailed the violent nature of his disease, recalling how he'd viciously beat his wife Dianne and their four children while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. He also admitted feigning a ruptured spinal disc in 1985 so as to be prescribed a multitude of prescription medication. [4]

    He sought professional help and mended his fractured familial relationships. In May 2006, Zoeller said in an interview with Golf Digest magazine that he hadn't beaten his wife in nearly five years.


    You gotta admit: if that paragraph isn't true, it is definitely libel by its defaming nature. Most people would be angry if this were in their own wikipedia entry. I know the Slashdot title is sensationalist, but in all honesty, I can see why he'd want to sue.
    • by RESPAWN (153636)

      You gotta admit: if that paragraph isn't true, it is definitely libel by its defaming nature. Most people would be angry if this were in their own wikipedia entry. I know the Slashdot title is sensationalist, but in all honesty, I can see why he'd want to sue.

      What the hell are you talking about. I would LOVE it if somebody put that in my wikipedia entry. 1) That would make me seem a lot cooler than I really am. Everybody knows that it's cool to drink alcohol and do drugs. 2) That would mean that somebody had actually taken notice of me to a level that they would feel the need to slander my name in public. If only I were so popular!

      (Please note that the post above is a joke, so please take it like one :-P)

    • by gosand (234100)
      You gotta admit: if that paragraph isn't true, it is definitely libel by its defaming nature. Most people would be angry if this were in their own wikipedia entry. I know the Slashdot title is sensationalist, but in all honesty, I can see why he'd want to sue.

      I can't. I can see why he would want that text removed though. Is a lawsuit the ONLY way to do that?

      Beause guess what - now his Wikipedia entry will read "In Feb 2007, he sued to have this text removed from his Wikipedia entry: Later Zoeller went

  • "Fuzzy" (Score:2, Funny)

    by Landshark17 (807664)
    I'd being suing whoever gave me that nickname if I were him...
  • A lot of people seem to think that something that would NOT be OK in the real world is just automatically OK if you do it using the internet. This sounds like one of those cases.

    Someone allegedly said in writing things that were libelous toward someone else.

    That should be all we need to know. The fact that it took place on the internet is simply not relevant.

  • Zoeller was libeled, and it appears that it was done by an employee at work. The company doesn't deserve to take the rap for this any more than Zoeller should have to put with it. The vandal should be identified for the record. Wikipedia has hidden the evidence, but some of it was captured before they did this. It is linked at the top of http://www.wikipedia-watch.org/ [wikipedia-watch.org]

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