Officials at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, Nebraska recently filed suit after discovering unflattering remarks about their institution posted on http://www.wikipedia.org. There was no point in suing Wikipedia as the site is just a provider of information, thereby protected under the Communications Decency Act. So, in an effort to find the actual person(s) posting the content, the school filed suit against John and Jane Doe.
This effort to obtain the identities of two IP addresses associated with the posts seems to have been met with a friendly response by the Internet Service Provider, Cox Communications. Cox says it plans to comply with the subpoena and noted that the company does divulge customer information when facing a court order. Whether or not the case will go to trial remains to be seen (identity and motivation of the poster(s) could be the deciding factor).
If you visit Skutt Catholic High School on Wikipedia now, you’ll find some info about the lawsuit but the original offending remarks have been removed. In addition, the page is on a veritable lock-down to avoid future vandalism. Of course it’s possible officials at the school could have swiftly ended the onslaught of disparaging remarks simply by editing the wikipedia post themselves, as anyone can indeed edit a page of the wikipedia site. Choosing to file suit may have only increased the attention to the unflattering remarks and perhaps even inspired additional negative posts.
For more about defamation and the internet, see our hot prospects post.