Wikipedia Edits Result in Internet Defamation Action
Catherine Crier is a former Dallas District Court judge who left the bench to launch a career as a television journalist. Crier has worked as a correspondent for Court TV and the Fox News Channel. This week she found herself on the other side of the bench, as the plaintiff in an Internet defamation action.
Crier is upset by changes that were made to her Wikipedia page. Specifically, some moron defamer decided it would be clever to insert information about a disbarred Texas attorney named Catherine Shelton. The defamer simply took a published article about Shelton, changed “Shelton” to “Crier” wherever it appeared, and inserted the revised article into Crier’s listing on Wikipedia. Wikipedia affords anyone the opportunity to edit articles, and the open marketplace is supposed to result in a fairly accurate encyclopedia entry. However, if the person is dedicated to inserting the false information, it becomes an editing war. No doubt Crier decided to eschew that game, and went straight to the lawsuit.
Crier has already determined the IP address of the defamer, and will now ask 162nd District Judge Lorraine A. Raggio to issue a subpoena to AT&T (the Internet service provider) ordering it to identity of the owner of the specified Internet protocol address.
Procedurally this is a pretty standard case, although the Wikipedia aspect is a little different, since that site is unique in permitting the victim of defamation to make his or her own changes to the defamer’s comments. But I put this case here as another example of the sort of nonsensical information that finds its way onto the Internet. We fight for a free marketplace of ideas, but who would argue that this sort of behavior should enjoy any protection? What possible motivation could the defamer have had for posting this falsified article, other than to spread malicious misinformation?
Crier’s petition can be found here.