An American man wrongly named in the Leveson Report as a founder of The Independent newspaper has expressed surprise that a judge would accept without question information on Wikipedia.Brett Straub was incorrectly identified in the 1,987–page report as being a cofounder of the newspaper alongside Andreas Whittam Smith and Stephen Glover in 1986.
When contacted by The Daily Telegraph, Mr Straub, 25, from California, said he had never been to Britain and had heard of neither The Independent nor Lord Justice Leveson.
Mr Straub said he had previously been wrongly named as one of the creators of The Independent on Wikipedia, the internet encyclopedia.
He said he was the victim of a prank by a friend who had placed his name on a string of Wikipedia pages. Mr Straub had not been aware that those included the page for The Independent.
Mr Straub said: “I have no clue what you’re talking about. It’s funny, I don’t even read newspapers. I graduated college eight months ago and the biggest thing we learned is don’t trust Wikipedia for facts.
“The fact someone, especially a judge, has believed something on Wikipedia is kind of shocking.” He added: “My friend went on and edited a bunch of Wikipedia pages and put my name there. My friend did it as a joke. I thought they had all been corrected.
“I knew my friend had done it but I didn’t know how to change them back and I thought someone would. At one point I was the creator of Coca–Cola or something. You know how easy it is to change Wikipedia. Every time he came across a red linked name he put my name in its place.”
Names coloured red on Wikipedia do not have an entry of their own. Mr Straub’s name replaced that of Matthew Symonds, a former senior journalist at The Independent, which had previously appeared alongside those of Mr Whittam Smith and Mr Glover.
The newspaper was founded before Mr Straub was born.
Lord Justice Leveson devoted only 12 pages of his report to the internet, but has referred to it as an “ethical vacuum”. He suggested that “people will not assume that what they read on the internet is trustworthy or that it carries any particular assurance or accuracy”.
However, the Leveson Report included the entry: “The Independent was founded in 1986 by the journalists Andreas Whittam Smith, Stephen Glover and Brett Straub, and was published by Newspaper Publishing plc.” The report included extensive footnotes, but there was no footnote attributing the erroneous information to Wikipedia.
Mr Straub’s name first appeared on the Wikipedia entry for The Independent, replacing Mr Symonds, on Oct 27, 2011. It remained there for more than a year until another contributor changed it back, adding: “No idea who ‘Brett Straub’ is/ was?!”
The original entry for Mr Straub was made using an Internet Protocol address traceable to computers at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, where Mr Straub was a student until earlier this year, majoring in landscape architecture.
A spokesman for the Leveson Inquiry declined to comment.
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