At an offshoot of Wikipedia, the users are revolting. Administrators of Wikinews, a site where volunteers collaboratively write news articles have voted to strip Jimmy Wales of his administrative privileges. He has protested the decision: "Due to recent developments, I am here more often and anticipate being here more often." Wales is not just a Wikinews user, however; he is a board member of the site's nonprofit parent, the Wikimedia Foundation, with a guaranteed seat, thanks to a recent reshuffling of the board. As such, his participation on the site may put it at legal risk.
Or so says Wikimedia lawyer Mike Godwin, who recently posted this on a foundation mailing list:
I should add that there is a complicating factor with regard to Sec. 230, and that's that while simple removal is protected, it's unclear whether every court would agree that more subtle substantive editing is protected — by engaging in the development of the content of an article, the Foundation and its agents or employees may unintentionally negate Sec. 230 immunity, depending on the scope and substance of the editing. That's a legal question that I'm studiously avoiding investing the Foundation's donated funds in finding an answer to. I'd rather see a richer defendant sort that one out for us.Godwin is referring to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a clause which relieves the operators of websites like Wikinews and Wikipedia from responsibility for content posted by their users. Wales, as a Wikimedia board member, is not just a user. Put more simply, the question Godwin is avoiding: Is Wales putting Wikipedia at legal risk by participating in its editing? Godwin has no answers. But if one believes in the wisdom of crowds, the Wikinews mob has made a wise decision for him.