TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: A Little Sleuthing Unmasks Writer of Wikipedia Prank

A Little Sleuthing Unmasks Writer of Wikipedia Prank

Monty Solomon (
Mon, 12 Dec 2005 15:09:24 -0500


It started as a joke and ended up as a shot heard round the Internet,
with the joker losing his job and Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia,
suffering a blow to its credibility.

A man in Nashville has admitted that, in trying to shock a colleague
with a joke, he put false information into a Wikipedia entry about
John Seigenthaler Sr., a former editor of The Tennessean in Nashville.

Brian Chase, 38, who until Friday was an operations manager at a small
delivery company, told Mr. Seigenthaler on Friday that he had written
the material suggesting that Mr. Seigenthaler had been involved in the
assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy. Wikipedia, a nonprofit
venture that is the world's biggest encyclopedia, is written and
edited by thousands of volunteers.

Mr. Seigenthaler discovered the false entry only recently and wrote
about it in an op-ed article in USA Today, saying he was especially
annoyed that he could not track down the perpetrator because of
Internet privacy laws. His plight touched off a debate about the
reliability of information on Wikipedia - and by extension the entire
Internet - and the difficulty in holding Web sites and their users
accountable, even when someone is defamed.

In a confessional letter to Mr. Seigenthaler, Mr. Chase said he
thought Wikipedia was a "gag" Web site and that he had written the
assassination tale to shock a co-worker, who knew of the Seigenthaler
family and its illustrious history in Nashville.

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