Home Your Tech Home Tech Wikipedia entry causes pro-golfer Fuzzy Zoeller to sue
Prevented by law from suing Wikipedia, pro-golfer Fuzzy Zoeller is suing the owner of an IP address from where allegedly defamatory remarks were posted onto Wikipedia alleging that he abused drugs, alcohol and his family in what could set a precedent for online defamation cases.

The offending paragraphs allegedly slandering Zoeller’s name were posted on December 20 2006, and have now been removed, but not before they were discovered, with Fuzzy Zoeller being named as ‘John Doe’ in the legal action that has subsequently been initiated to clear his name.

The IP address of the posts was traced back to education consulting firm Josef Silny & Associates of Miami, although Mr Silny says he is surprised that the complaint originated from his computer systems and doesn’t know who at his company might have made the offending Wikipedia posts.

Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, although following previous instances where Wikipedia entries were defaced and edited with potentially defamatory information, with people previously affected by inaccurate Wikipedia entries including John Seigenthaler, a former assistant to Robert Kennedy, who was falsely accused of being a suspected participant in the assassinations of  the Kennedy brothers, along with US politicians who have had their Wikipedia entries besmirched.

Following these incidents, security was beefed up to prevent these kinds of things from happening in the future. However despite the security upgrades which see some pages locked completely, users who earn the right to access files are still able to change pages that have remained unlocked, making the Wikipedia encyclopedia vulnerable to such defamation attacks or other inaccurate information.

According to the Associated Press, the following statement comes from paragraph 11 of the lawsuit and includes the alleged remarks: “Later (Mr. Doe) 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’.”

The statement continues that: “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. He has since sought professional help and mended his fractured familial relationships. In May 2006, (Mr. Doe) said in a interview with Golf Digest magazine that he hadn’t beaten his wife in nearly five years.”

These paragraphs have now been removed from Zoeller’s Wikipedia entry, with Silny mystified and engaging a computer consultant to conduct an internal investigation, while Wikipedia claim not to have been informed of the case until it hit the media.

Zoeller was previously the subject of embarrassment over remarks towards Tiger Woods, which cost him endorsement deals at the time, with Wikipedia listing the reported comments from the 1997 Masters regarding the championship dinner as:“Tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it? ... or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve”, which was reported to have the potential of being construed as racially discriminatory.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

 

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