The second time Dim tried to access his Wikipedia page, the changes had been removed and it was left with the original, short entry.
“Dmitri Steveson, unemployed since being fired from a paper recycling plant in 1998, and is considered a loser by 78% of people polled.”
He grit his teeth and tried to log on. A pop-up appeared. “Due to inappropriate use, this user has been banned from editing entries on Wikipedia.” Dim thought this was a bit unfair – he had only changed the entry to make it more realistic.
“Dmitri Steveson is a thirty-year-old guitarist currently in the search for a band to help him live out his dreams. He left his career in the green sector after he discovered his love for music. His song “Back in the day” has been described as a cross between Simon and Garfunkel and The Mamas and The Pappas.”
It wasn’t so much lying as tidying up the truth. But, this had been erased, and the previous entry had reappeared.
Dim looked through the website to try to figure out how he could get the entry removed altogether. He clicked on the ‘contact us’ button at the bottom of the page and sent the following email.
“To whom it may concern,
I am writing to complain about an entry which has been made about me, Dmitri Steveson. The information is false and hurtful and I would like this removed. Thank-you. Dmitri Steveson.”
The response came three hours later.
“Dear Mr Steveson,
As the information provided is backed-up with links which are clearly displayed on the page, it is difficult for us to remove this entry. If you are able to dispute the links, please provide appropriate evidence and we will look into this further.
Yours, John Stames.”
Dim was confused. He went back to the site – nothing had changed. He didn’t need to scroll down to see the links. There were two – one to a webpage, and one to an article in an online magazine. He clicked on the article first. The online magazine was called “Men you don’t want to get involved with.” The article was called “Dmitri Stevenson barely makes it out of bed, and not in the good way.” The author was listed as Sally Jones, but he knew it was Terri. It had to be Terri. She was his only ex-, and she was very web savvy. She could easily have either created this whole web-zine or have found and contributed to it. He made a note of the site and closed it down.
He then clicked on the link to the webpage. The webpage was called “DS – reasons to avoid” and featured a large caricature of him. It had links to the side, most notably “see the results of our web survey – is Dmitri Steveson a loser?”
Clearly, these sites were all the evidence that Wikipedia needed, despite being so clearly lacking in fact.
It took Stan two weeks to get back to him. Stan was a law student and was Dmitri’s nephew. Dmitri asked him to find out what legal recourse he had.
“Well, Dmitri, it’s not great news. In fact, I would say it’s pretty awful. The easiest solution that the professor had was to approach the person who put up the site and ask them to remove it. But, if it is Terri, I get the impression she has too much anger to do that willingly.”
Dmitri agreed. He hated that everyone in his family knew, but he’d cheated on Terri. Only once, but once Terri found out, she made sure everyone they knew heard about it. He’d lost a lot of friendships, and even some relatives weren’t talking to him.
“Well, there is nothing linking her to the sites, at least not superficially. You need to do some deeper research – either learn to do this yourself, or hire a forensic website specialist. They can track it down to her. Then, you could charge her with libel. Although, it is then required for you to show that it is false, which may be difficult to do.”
“But it is false!”
“Of course it is!”
“You mean you never got fired from the recycling plant?”
“Well… yes, but…”
“Have you been employed since?”
“And as for the poll, well, it’s an online poll, so it could mean anything, but there is no real falseness to it – it’s an opinion survey.”
“But, there is some good news, Dmitri?”
“What is it?”
“My professor loves the case. He is going to use it as part of the course.”
“So, now all of your course will get to see what a loser I am?”
“um… Yes, I guess so. I hadn’t seen it like that.”
Dmitri hung up the phone. Perhaps no one would see it anyhow. He opened Facebook. The first thing he saw was a post from one of his mates. It was a link to the Wikipedia page, with a note beneath saying “warning… this is what happens when you cheat on a web guru!” There were 28 ‘likes’. He slammed the laptop shut. These were supposed to be his friends.