December 09, 2007

Wikipedia (recent) legal intern wonders why they don't "send [lawyer] after" me

[Title updated and see clarification below]

According to a post on the "Wikilaw" blog:

Sometimes I wonder why the foundation doesn't send Mike Godwin after nonsense like this. The Guardian's Seth Finkelstein published a piece called "Inside, Wikipedia is more like a sweatshop than Santa's workshop". At the best this is highly unethical; at the worst it's defamatory. Yes yes, First Amendment, actual malice, blah blah. There's also a little thing like journalistic ethics, which is why to this day I refuse to accept the Guardian as a reliable source (this article gives a little more credence to my claim, I'll note).

LOL! (laugh-out-loud, in net.jargon). Longtime readers will see many layers of "humor" here.

The article was even editorial vetted in accordance with British libel/defamation law, as it was published by a British newspaper. British standards in that area are more much strict than US law.

If that were a random blogger rant, I wouldn't even bother about it. But according to the blog bio of User:Swatjester (Dan Rosenthal):

I'm a 24 year old law student at American University Washington, College of Law. I'm an English Wikipedia admin (sysop), and a member of the Wikimedia Communications Committee. I'm also a legal intern for the Wikimedia Foundation.

I'm not going to raise an official fuss. But just as a bit of advice - as a legal intern AND "Communications Committee" member, I don't think it's advisable to raise the possibility of your organization sending its lawyer after a columnist who writes a critical article. Which, if one step backs for minute, I hope would be clear is solidly grounded in the facts. It gives a very bad impression amidst a public-relations disaster involving accusations of secret mailing lists and cabals. And it definitely adds to the evidence of Wikipedia as a cult.

[Update: The blog bio has now been modified to read "I was a legal intern for the Wikimedia Foundation", and he noted in a comment "Correction: Seth, I have not been the legal intern for the foundation since September."]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikipedia | on December 09, 2007 10:54 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Interesting that Mike Godwin would be Jimbo Wales' lawyer. They're both members of The WELL, the original on-line cult formed by members of Stephen Gaskin's Summerville cult in Tennessee, among others.

Posted by: Richard Bennett at December 10, 2007 06:31 AM


Seth, I have not been the legal intern for the foundation since September.


Posted by: Wikilaw at December 10, 2007 08:25 AM

Correction: Stephen Gaskin's cult was called "The Farm" and it was located in Summertown, TN.

Posted by: Richard Bennett at December 10, 2007 04:49 PM

I can't decide if this is hilarious or frightening.

Posted by: Michael Zimmer at December 10, 2007 09:04 PM

I guess the Wikipedia policy of "No Legal Threats" doesn't apply to the personal blogs of Wikipedians.

Posted by: Dan T. at December 11, 2007 07:46 PM

Considering the fact that the Wiki foundation is still based on public donations, I do not think they can justify running after an intern. The Guardian may be but not the intern. Tough call, funny and frightening all in one. Good luck Dan.

Posted by: Mike at December 14, 2007 11:57 AM

@richard bennett

sincere question. are you really calling the farm a cult? or just trying to make a point?

do you have any idea what ina may gaskin has done to protect women against the "birth as a medical emergency" model/mindset perpetuated by ama encouraged obstetricians? and how many lives she has saved and will continue to save?

(slightly off-topic, but i am mystified.)

Posted by: madame l. at December 17, 2007 04:18 AM