Friday, March 17, 2006

Class Action Suit Against Wikipedia

The Internet group that once solicited complaints for a class action suit against Wikipedia has shut up shop and revealed its roots. Claiming to have been prompted by the John Seigenthaler Wikipedia biography controversy, the site once sought parties to build a defamation suit against the wiki-based encyclopedia. Today, that site points to the Officialwire news service, known to be associated with Greg Lloyd Smith. The long-standing Wikipedia-alleged association between Officialwire and the QuakeAID "charity" has also been confirmed due to that site being replaced with a similar redirection.

The class action website was initially registered to one Jennifer Monroe who is affiliated with QuakeAID, an organisation which Wikipedia editors have accused of being a scam following QuakeAID personnel having created their own article on Wikipedia last year. This came at the time of the Indian Ocean earthquake, when Wikipedia user Baoutrust added QuakeAID to Wikipedia's victim donations page and sparked a dispute about the legitimacy of the organisation. Wikipedia editors did not acknowledge the tax-exempt status of the organisation which QuakeAID displayed on its home page; however, this can now only be seen via Google's cache. The 501(c) registration QuakeAID used to list is generally accepted as what defines an organisation as a charity with the United States. However, a number of groups removed QuakeAID from their public lists of charities following the Wikipedia dispute.

The dispute between QuakeAID and Wikipedia editors sparked a negative publicity campaign waged via Baou Trust's news service, OfficialWire. A number of articles which portray Wikipedia, or Wikipedians in a bad light have been published on the service. The site for the proposed class-action suit provides a link displaying results of a search of OfficialWire for stories about Wikipedia. This is not the first instance of the directors of Baou Trust using their newswire to run a smear campaign: a long-running campaign against former directors of the equity company IEQ was mounted following Greg Lloyd Smith's hostile takeover of the firm.

Smith is no stranger to controversy, having been the target of legal action by when he registered the and sites and set up an look-alike selling Greek-language books. Amazon initially filed suit in Greece, and later in the US where their complaint described initial communication from Smith as a "thinly-veiled shakedown" when he offered to sell a controlling interest in CITI to the company for $1.6 million. The Amazon suit sought triple damages under RICO statutes stating, "Fraudulent acts of mail and wire fraud, extortion and criminal copyright infringement constitute a pattern of racketeering, and pose a threat to society."


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