Monday, January 23, 2012

Heavier Curatorial Control . . . Enter the Doublespeak

Just last week, anywhere you went on the Web you found people griping about SOPA and PIPA, celebrating when Congress put the “internet-censoring” bills on indefinite hold.

Now today I read at an essay from Evgeny Morozov endeavoring to encourage search engines “to help stop the spread of 9/11 denialism, anti-vaccine activism, and other fringe beliefs.”

How is Internet censorship stopping piracy a bad thing, while internet censoring stopping fringe beliefs a good thing?

OK, so Morozov out-and-out says censorship won’t work. But then he turns right around again and proposes, well, censorship:

The second—and not necessarily mutually exclusive—option is to nudge search engines to take more responsibility for their index and exercise a heavier curatorial control in presenting search results for issues like "global warming" or "vaccination." Google already has a list of search queries that send most traffic to sites that trade in pseudoscience and conspiracy theories; why not treat them differently than normal queries? Thus, whenever users are presented with search results that are likely to send them to sites run by pseudoscientists or conspiracy theorists, Google may simply display a huge red banner asking users to exercise caution and check a previously generated list of authoritative resources before making up their minds.

Yeah, we get some doublespeak here: “heavier curatorial control” sounds pretty much like censorship to me. Yeah, we can still – maybe – see the results, but we’re flagged as a moron for going there.

And here’s another thing – anti global warming is pseudoscience, run by pseudoscientists or conspiracy theorists? Who decided that? Oh yeah. Those whose orthodoxies don’t allow them to see the reputable science and scientists who cast doubt on much of the evidence presented in favor of global warming. Heavier curatorial control is going to flag stuff that’s out of the orthodoxy and label it as pseudoscience simply because it’s outside the orthodoxy? Who gets to decide what is orthodox and what is not?

This idea is as ugly as SOPA/PIPA could ever be.

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