Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller Sues Consulting Firm Over Wikipedia Entry

Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller is suing to track down the author who posted what he considers a defamatory paragraph about him on the Internet reference site Wikipedia.

Zoeller's attorney, Scott D. Sheftall, said he filed the lawsuit against a Miami firm last week because the law won't allow him to sue St. Petersburg-based Wikipedia.

The suit alleges someone used a computer at Josef Silny & Associates, a Miami education consulting firm, to add the information to Zoeller's Wikipedia profile.

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"Courts have clearly said you have to go after the source of the information," Sheftall said. "The Zoeller family wants to take a stand to put a stop to this. Otherwise, we're all just victims of the Internet vandals out there. They ought not to be able to act with impunity."

Wikipedia, which describes itself as "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit," leaves it to a vast user community to catch factual errors and other problems.

The paragraph in question has been removed, but the information has been picked up by other Web sites.

The lawsuit said it alleged Zoeller abused drugs, alcohol and his family with no evidence to back up the statements. The derogatory information was first added in August 2006.

According to the lawsuit, the profile was last "vandalized" on Dec. 20 from a computer with an Internet address assigned to Josef Silny & Associates.

Josef Silny was shocked to learn his company was targeted in the lawsuit.

"I can't imagine anybody doing that," Silny said. "This is completely out of left field."

He has asked his computer consultant to investigate the complaint.

Zoeller sued under the alias "John Doe" to protect his privacy. But Sheftall confirmed the golf champion was the plaintiff in a phone interview Thursday with The Associated Press. The lawsuit was first reported by The Miami Herald.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said no one has contacted the site about the lawsuit. He said volunteer editors are aggressive about cleaning up inaccuracies reported to the site.

"We try to police it pretty closely, but people do misbehave on the Internet," Wales said.