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 Chilling Effects Clearinghouse > Defamation > Notices > Individual threatens Wikipedia over biography defacement (NoticeID 18099, Printer-friendly version

Individual threatens Wikipedia over biography defacement

March 07, 2008


Sender Information:
Sent by: [Private]
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
New York, NY, 10281, US

Recipient Information:
General Counsel and Legal Coordinator
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
San Francisco, CA, 94107, USA

Sent via: email, fax, and e
Re: Defamation of Solomon Trujillo

Dear Mr. Godwin:

We represent [individual] and are writing to demand that defamatory statements that appear on Wikipedia immediately and permanently be removed from the following URL:

Specifically, an anonymous user (IP (the "anonymous user") has since at least March 1, 2008 repeatedly inserted the following false and defamatory language in the referenced article:


This false and defamatory assertion has been repeatedly removed, but the anonymous user keeps replacing the false and defamatory language.

We demand that Wikipedia and Wikimedia permanently remove the above language from the article, including all of its history pages, and to permanently block the anonymous user from editing the page by 7 o'clock eastern time today. If Wikipedia and Wikimedia do not remove the improper language by that time, and take the steps necessary to block its being reinserted, Mr. [individual] intends to commence litigation against Wikipedia and Wikimedia on Monday, March 10, 2008.

Very truly yours,


FAQ: Questions and Answers

[back to notice text]

Question: What is defamation?

Answer: Generally, defamation is a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone's reputation, and published "with fault," meaning as a result of negligence or malice. State laws often define defamation in specific ways. Libel is a written defamation; slander is a spoken defamation.

[back to notice text]

Question: Must an ISP or message board host delete postings that someone tells him/her are defamatory? Can the ISP or message board delete postings in response to a request from a third party?

Answer: No, they are not required to delete. 47 U.S.C. sec. 230 gives most ISPs and message board hosts the discretion to keep postings or delete them, whichever they prefer, in response to claims by others that a posting is defamatory or libelous. Most ISPs and message board hosts also post terms of service that give them the right to delete or not delete messages as they see fit and such terms have generally been held to be enforceable under law.

[back to notice text]

Question: Can an ISP or the host of the message board or chat room be held liable for
defamatory of libelous statements made by others on the message board?

Answer: Not in the United States. Under 47 U.S.C. sec. 230(c)(1) (CDA Sec. 230): "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." This provision has been uniformly interpreted by the Courts to provide complete protection against defamation or libel claims made against an ISP, message board or chat room where the statements are made by third parties. Note that this immunity does not extend to claims made under intellectual property laws.

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