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Am I Wiki-Defamed Forever?
September 12, 2011 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Someone wrote nasty, upsetting things about me on the Wikipedia page about me. I edited them out, but they're on the edit history page forever, right? Anything I can do?

I have a Wikipedia page, sort of to my chagrin. I did not create this page, but there it is. Someone wrote some upsetting, defamatory stuff about me on the page-- and the remarks were related to what I do for work, so potentially harmful. I randomly found the remarks and edited the page to delete them. Thing is, if anyone reads the page, and decides to poke around the edit history, they'll come across these remarks.

I know this might be very Internets 101, but if I'd like to minimize the potential harm caused here, is there anything I can do? Can I create "noise" by writing other stuff on my Wikipedia page, and then erasing it? How likely is it that someone who comes across my Wikipedia page will poke around the edit history?
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (22 answers total)
 
Wikipedia deletes libelous material on request (including edit history pages). See here.
posted by theodolite at 1:02 PM on September 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


See also Autobiography: Problems in an article about you.

Along with requesting deletion of libel, you should not be editing the Wikipedia page about you. The Conflict of Interest page in a nutshell: "Do not edit Wikipedia to promote your own interests, or those of other individuals or of organizations, including employers. Do not write about these things unless you are certain that a neutral editor would agree that your edits improve Wikipedia."
posted by rhapsodie at 1:07 PM on September 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I suspect 99.9% of people that end up on Wikipedia via search have no idea that the history page even exists. I wouldn't worry about it. Anybody net savvy enough to look at the history pages on Wikipedia is also net savvy enough to understand that anybody can add anything to a Wikipedia page.
posted by COD at 1:07 PM on September 12, 2011 [26 favorites]


Libel can be removed, but if the material is well-cited and notable, then you may not have much luck removing it. These issues can also be potentially resolved by using the page's Discussion (Talk) section, if there is contentious material.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:13 PM on September 12, 2011


Seconding COD, I wouldn't worry too much about some bullshit on a history page that almost nobody will ever see. (I'm fairly certain that Google doesn't index Wikipedia history pages.) Creating "noise" like you mention would be the best way to draw attention to the page and the problematic edits, which is exactly what you want to avoid. Honestly I would only worry about this if someone was repeatedly editing the article and putting the defamatory material back in. If that's not happening then I think you can relax.
posted by theodolite at 1:16 PM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Honestly I would only worry about this if someone was repeatedly editing the article and putting the defamatory material back in. If that's not happening then I think you can relax.

This seems wise. Remember the Streisand effect.
posted by grouse at 1:20 PM on September 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


How likely is it that someone who comes across my Wikipedia page will poke around the edit history?

If most people are anything like me, it's extremely unlikely. People are always telling me I'm very internet-savvy, and I've been reading Wikipedia regularly for years; sometimes I edit it. I almost never check the edit history just because I'm interested in a topic. I'll occasionally look at the discussions just for the sake of observing the process behind Wikipedia, but I would never peruse the edit history to try to find out more information about the topic. People often don't even take Wikipedia itself serious because it's edited by the public, so the stuff that's deleted from Wikipedia carries no weight. It could even be interpreted as a sign that what was deleted isn't true.
posted by John Cohen at 1:22 PM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd advise using the emailaddress that is listed on the page theodolite mentioned. Using the talk page will only draw more attention to the issue, and especially because if the 'conflict of interest' issues mentioned it could get messy. If you email them, they might look into deletion of that particular version of the page (if possible and applicable), but also they might be able to keep an eye on it in case of future edits like those you mention.
posted by Ms. Next at 1:25 PM on September 12, 2011


I have edited more wikipedia pages than most, less than folks who make it A Mission. And I rarely look at history pages unless something seems really hinky and I am trying to understand why something is so egregiously wrong.

If you're not anyone of real note you might ask someone you trust to request deletion of the page in total, citing un-importance. Then the likelihood that anyone will ever see the old crap is even more unlikely.
posted by phearlez at 1:32 PM on September 12, 2011


How likely is it that someone who comes across my Wikipedia page will poke around the edit history?

Practically nil. I doubt most people know the history even exists, and in the future it may be cluttered up by more edit history records generated when the Wikipedia folk tried to edit out Penis Spam types of things that only lasted two seconds and no one saw anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:34 PM on September 12, 2011


Second what John Cohen has stated and adding that I think the only time I have ever looked at the edit history on Wikipedia is when someone has removed an edit that I made. The vast majority of people have no interest in the edit history, even if they are the sort of person who, like me, occasionally makes small edits.
posted by asnider at 1:50 PM on September 12, 2011


Do you think it's possible that you are not notable enough to have a Wikipedia page? Wikipedia articles that are deleted are (AFAIK) completely deleted.
posted by muddgirl at 1:54 PM on September 12, 2011


Wikipedia articles that are deleted are (AFAIK) completely deleted.

Administrators can still find them. But ordinary editors or random people from the web won't be able to see deleted pages.
posted by grouse at 2:09 PM on September 12, 2011


Was it...believable?

A person I once knew had a Wikipedia page (briefly -- not a 'notable') and I once saw some 'upsetting, defamatory stuff about him on the page-- and the remarks were related to what he does for work,' and it gave me pause because (1) it had clearly been written by somebody familiar with his profession, and (2) I knew the person to be dishonest and sleazy and totally prone to that sort of outrageously bad behaviour.

Had this been anybody else, unsourced defamatory stuff on a Wikipedia page would've been... "Bill Clinton held a meeting with alien president" Weekly World News-level believable. If your nose is reasonably clean I have a hard time seeing anybody buying it. Assume a certain level of sophistication needed to go digging like that, and that that same level of sophistication would preclude believing the unpleasant and unsourced.
posted by kmennie at 3:00 PM on September 12, 2011


Never, ever edit your page. Ever. Just don't.

Use the admin email. Tell them the truth about the entire episode and let them know that you now know never ever to edit your own page.

And try not to worry; no one checks the history unless they have a dog in the fight or are irredeemable voyeurs (like me.)
posted by SMPA at 3:32 PM on September 12, 2011


I don't blame you for being upset. Wikipedia tracks who writes what. Email them, explain, and maybe they'll a. remove it and b. deal with the person who wrote it.
posted by theora55 at 3:37 PM on September 12, 2011


It's perfectly accepted for people to make edits to their own Wikipedia page, if such edits are "obvious errors." I don't know whether or not this falls in that category, but if it's offensively defamatory like "So and so is a c*** lawyer who deserves to die," then I would say so.

Well, nothing is "perfectly accepted" at Wikipedia, but it's as authoritative as a policy article can be.
posted by muddgirl at 3:44 PM on September 12, 2011


Wikipedia editor for ages here. You can edit your page if you want, just know that such edits will be taken with a big grain of salt by other editors. It's not automatically wrong to edit your pages if they are factually incorrect and your edits are what any neutral editor would do, however in practice it is hard to be neutral and be seen as neutral when the subject is you.

There are three kinds of deletion on Wikipedia.

1) There's a normal edit, which can delete prior statements. It is rare indeed for someone to look at a Wikipedia article and say 'hey, what did this look like last week?'

2) Then there's article deletion, where the entire article is not just edited to be blank but is actually removed. Only an admin can do this, and only an admin can see that there used to be an article there where now there's nothing.

3) Finally there's the most extreme option, where deletion at the edit or article level can be hidden from even administrators. This is the option used for egregious problems, libel, and Stuff that would get Wikipedia in Trouble or Otherwise Seriously Hurt the Project. I forget the procedure for this, but if say someone were writing nasty stuff about a non-public figure, then this would be a possible avenue to pursue.

Good luck!
posted by zippy at 5:09 PM on September 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would argue that someone who doesn't know enough about Wikipedia to be wary about editing their own page should just be told "don't do that," but yeah, it's allowed. Still, unless you're beyond "Internets 101" I'd say "don't do that." Amongst other things, the temptation to delete the next line about something that's embarrassing but true is now a lot higher. As an experienced editor, I would contact an admin - and not one who's a personal friend - rather than make an edit to my own article, just to stay away from the line.
posted by SMPA at 5:45 PM on September 12, 2011


only an admin can see that there used to be an article there where now there's nothing.

Actually, anyone can see that there used to be an article there. Here's an example of an article that was recently deleted. But only an administrator can see the previous contents.
posted by grouse at 5:45 PM on September 12, 2011


Actually, anyone can see that there used to be an article there....But only an administrator can see the previous contents.

Ah yes, you're right, only an admin can view the previous content for a deleted article.
posted by zippy at 5:47 PM on September 12, 2011


Also, no one should assume that anything can be deleted from the internet once it's there. Even if Wikipedia's admins do everything they can.

An article about yourself is nothing to be proud about: Miscellaneous things to be aware of

posted by SMPA at 5:50 PM on September 12, 2011


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