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Ethics on the internet
How far do we take it
hannamyluv




msg:313787
 9:43 pm on Dec 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Something happened today that made me pause... So I wanted to find out what others thought.

I was doing a search about a famous black leader and a site came up on the first page that seemed legitimate. Looking at the home page, you would have thought that it was a very legitimate site about this person... But further reading revealed that it was in fact a site most likly run by white supremists.

Many facts were grossly distorted or even out right lies. Books written by people like David Duke were used to uphold these facts.

Across the top of the page in HUGE letters was a link that said "Students - Take our quiz about XXXXXXXX"

I didn't take it but judging from the rest of the site, I can imagine what it was like.

Again this site was ranked in the top 10 for this person's name. Now, I know that there is nothing I can do leglely. No one will pull it out of the search, but I could not help thinking that "what if my child had been doing a paper on this person and had found this site?"

How far should we take it to remove disinformation on the internet? What's more important, the truth or free speech.

And while this may seem like a political subject, it really isn't. This can apply to any subject, from someone who purposely publishes a site that give the wrong information on how to bake quiche to what 2+2 is. This information is harmful to those who use it, should there be something out there "law, code of conduct, etc." that strives to regulate this?

 

troels nybo nielsen




msg:313788
 11:08 pm on Dec 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Several of my websites deal with topics where there are strong and sharp and opposing opinions as to what is knowledge and what is ignorance, what is truth and what is lie.

Of course I am convinced that I spread information and fight disinformation. There is no doubt that the people on the other side of the fence have the opposite opinion about this question. And I have never for one single second doubted that there are people who would like to see at least one of my websites prohibited.

The Internet is like the rest of this civilization that it is part of. The beauty, the ugliness, the truth, the lies, the love, the hate etc. It's all there.

There is no way of stopping webmasters spreading unpleasant messages on the Internet. Being one of those webmasters who would be natural targets for censorship I can only say that if the politicians of my home country were to forbid one of my websites I would simply move it to another country.

I am sure that this goes for other webmasters whose messages are unpopular in some quarters, whether their messages are lies or uncomfortable truths.

If you want to fight something that you regard as lies you have only got one weapon: To tell what you regard as the truth.

The Chinese have a proverb. Goes like this: "It's better to light a candle than to damn the darkness."

Shak




msg:313789
 12:30 am on Dec 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

hannamyluv,

I have seen this tactic used a number of times, everything from business services to religion.

its frightening the amount of incorrect information blatantly published to dupe the surfer.

Shak

iamlost




msg:313790
 12:47 am on Dec 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

>> hannamyluv:

<an aside>You aren't (sadly) but your nic is luverly<end aside>

Your point is to my mind the greatest danger of the web. A lot of people rail about pornography that ignore or downplay the disinformation, libel, and distortion floating about. It is especially prevalent when researching historical and/or religious and ethnic subjects. Facts should not be obscured by opinion and they often are.

I have spent hours with my son showing and explaining this very issue. He, like most people, tends to believe what he reads.

The only real defence is a quality education and a discerning mind. So I think we (western society) have NO defence - unfortunately.

Lilliabeth




msg:313791
 12:47 am on Dec 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

What's more important, the truth or free speech.

Free speech is more important than a kid getting misinformation for his school report.

I think free speech is more important than just about anything.

Besides, kids are quite aware that misinformation flourishes on the Web.

iamlost




msg:313792
 3:09 am on Dec 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

>> Lilliabeth:

The truth always trumps free speech, even in the United States. Libel and slander are exempt from all "free speach" protection.

troels nybo nielsen is correct in that both truth and lies can be moved from web host to web host around the world and likely never be caught.

The point is not about censorship or about free speach but rather about:
1. understanding that there is a lack of accountability.
2. determining which of several sites/references on a given subject are accurate and which are not.
3. educating people to check and recheck and recheck again before they believe that what is published is true.

Currently far too many people repeat opinion as fact. There is also deliberately falsified information on some sites. It is a problem. It will not go away. We need to be aware and educate as we can.

I think that the wide open anything goes internet is fabulous, I also think that it is dangerous and that most people are not aware.

To be trite: If the truth shall set you free .... what will falsehood do?

Lilliabeth




msg:313793
 5:15 am on Dec 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

First of all...
Please notice the times of your first post and my first post... we posted at the same time, so please understand I had not read your post before I hit the submit button, so I really wasn't disagreeing with you... I was responding to hannamyluv's question about should there be a law, etc.

I think that will lead you to a different interpretation of my first post!

i wholeheartedly agree that there is a whole lot of bad stuff on the internet.

But the question:
should there be something out there "law, code of conduct, etc." that strives to regulate this?

led me to remark that free speech is precious.

There are already laws regarding slander and libel.

So, I am not in favor of new laws that would jepoardize free speech. There are other things we can do to provide at least a bit of protection... you mentioned them:

1. understanding that there is a lack of accountability.
2. determining which of several sites/references on a given subject are accurate and which are not.
3. educating people to check and recheck and recheck again before they believe that what is published is true.

You also said:
The point is not about censorship or about free speach

I think we are in agreement in general, we just interpreted the original post differently (and it appeared that I was posting in response to you but I wasn't), as I saw it as a question as to whether we need formal regulations, and I think there are already plenty of laws already.

Teshka




msg:313794
 10:40 am on Dec 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

To be honest, pages by zealots and fanatics who believe the nutso stuff they preach don't bother me nearly as much as pages by people who willingly cheat other people to make a buck.

A lot of people died so we could be free-speakin' capitalists, though, and censorship is linked too closely to oppression not to raise people's hackles... In the end, the best thing to do is to educate your kids on what is right and trust them.

It wouldn't hurt to let them know that no site without a bunch of scholarly sources cited at the end is worth anything in academia anyway =)

hannamyluv




msg:313795
 12:36 pm on Dec 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

bunch of scholarly sources cited at the end is worth anything in academia anyway

Slightly related to the quote, but I checked the back links to see why this site ranked so high and found that a couple dozen academic sites were linked to it for classes about how to judge sources on the internet. This site was an example of a bad site and ironically, by these academic sites linking to it, they are perpetuating the disinformation.

killroy




msg:313796
 12:57 pm on Dec 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well, remeber that the free speech not onlyenables the misinformation, but the information in the first place.

The reason we ahve free speech informed today, is that there is no guarantee that without free speech only facts are distributed.

Who is to say what is fact? The government? The law? Those are the greatest perpetrators of misinformation when free speech was not available...

Free Speech is the Wiki way. If all of humanity is "good/righeous/whatever) more then 50% of the time on average, free speech will ensure that fact will prevail.

It's like an open market. The people will vote... For every false information site there will be 1.01 truth and fact sites.

Problem s in the detail, but overall we'Re better of that way.

SN

sean




msg:313797
 3:13 pm on Dec 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

hannamyluv
How far should we take it to remove disinformation on the internet?

hannamyluv
Slightly related to the quote, but I checked the back links to see why this site ranked so high and found that a couple dozen academic sites were linked to it for classes about how to judge sources on the internet.

Perhaps you could contact the more influential linkers, briefly explain the trickle-down ramifications of their linking, and get them to obscure their links so they do not pass any search engine love.

Oftencold




msg:313798
 8:36 am on Dec 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

hannamyluv,

Perhaps web sites like you describe are a learning opportunity, especially for kids.

It is a chance to demonstrate that even people smart enough, creative enough to produce a web page, a book, a song, or a political platform can be liars.

I know from my own experience that some of us are instinctualy inhibited fromn believing that people do in fact lie. It is hard to balance "love thy neighbor" with "your neighbor may be any type of reprobate."

One could also teach a kid, or reflect for oneself on the mind set and internal processes that are needed to produce such refined hatred in the site author.

a final thing to ponder, that a commentator I enjoy is fond of stating is that another's right to free speech does not have a corresponding duty to us to listen.

DaveAtIFG




msg:313799
 4:08 pm on Dec 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

What's more important, the truth or free speech.
"The truth" is subjective to each of us. Free speech insures that "the whole truth" is available to all of us. Unfortunately to have "the whole truth" available, we sacrifice "and nothing but the truth," and we must.

what if my child
Broadcast media is already restricted by parental and social dictates. Do we want the Net reduced to the same pablum? I certainly don't.

miles




msg:313800
 8:12 pm on Dec 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

The problem you have in general is no two people can agree on any one truth or what is unquestionable facts. You can read over the current post and see that one person with kids at home that wants their kids to search and find what is good and truthful and on the other hand you get the people who put the sites like you saw up and think that truth is subjective in accordance with what they think.

The problem is not just on the net and that is the problem.

You can ask webmasters here and abroad are there ethics and you will get the problem that nobody shares your ethics. Once again you run into the problem I mentioned above.

dvduval




msg:313801
 8:46 pm on Dec 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

Might this be motivation to put your SEO skills to the test and bury this person. Surely, there view is in the minority, and racist at that.

Why not find some other legitimate pages about this person and contact the other webmasters. Band together and beat this guy.

slade7




msg:313802
 10:15 pm on Dec 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

Everyone is a zealot or fanatic to someone... if you aren't, either you don't believe in anything very sincerely or you refuse to continue to believe in it when becomes unpopular to do so.

There are many situations nowadays in which to speak the truth (not to say that those in question DID) would be politically incorrect, or otherwise inappropriate.

Therefore, thank your lucky stars that those people are allowed to say what they have to say, because next time, it might be you. May you speak of your own unpopular cause with honor and grace - because that is what counts.

To illustrate I give you a couple of gems from a fellow whose name I could not mention without raising a few hackles, but who in my opinion was all things considered a very wise man, and just as flawed as any of us.

"...while good morals are all-important between the Lord and His creatures, what counts between one creature and another is good manners."

"Honor and honesty, compassion and truth probably will kill you. At any rate, you’ll suffer for them. All good men will suffer, early or late. It is probably better to learn of suffering early—it gives us more time to learn to suffer well: with intelligence, and good manners, even with charm."

slade7




msg:313803
 10:20 pm on Dec 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

I might add that the best way to police such things is to police yourself. If everyone did this there would not be a problem. The almighty government can't do a thing to prevent its citizens from murdering each other, much less lying to each other - so the best thing you can do for society is to take care of the one thing you are charged with - i.e. yourself.

Do not be a murdering liar, and there will be one less of those in the world.

lawman




msg:313804
 1:08 am on Dec 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

Do not be a murdering liar, and there will be one less of those in the world.

So far I've been able to fib without committing murder. I've also been known to exceed the speed limit and haven't killed anyone while letting the ponies run. :)

lawman

ScottM




msg:313805
 1:44 am on Dec 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

Good topic and one I struggle with.

Many good friends insist that certain things "must be censored" for their own personal beliefs. I, also, wish certain things weren't on the Internet. But I am also savvy enough to know that as soon as my "pet peeves" are gone, so will be things that are near and dear to me.

Over the past few days, South Park (an adult cartoon on the Comedy Channel) has been doing a rerun of a Christmas Play gone awry with political correctness. It was a hilarious show with a social comment of censorship gone bad.

And that's what I mean....

IF I were king, I'd censor what I disagree with. IF others were king, they'd censor what I agree with. Neither side wins.

Given the fact that the Internet has no real boundries, at this point, it is senseless to try to censor anything. We can't even effectively filter out spam email!

The Internet has given to many blessings, to too many folks, to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Let the anti-ScottM sites rule! (Just make sure you link to me...hehe)

walkman




msg:313806
 2:05 am on Dec 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

you're talking about ethics by David Duke supporters, I wouldn't expect anything less from them. That said, they have a right to say that MLK or XXXXX was this and that, just as we have the right to our opinions about them.

worker




msg:313807
 3:15 am on Dec 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

One thing you could do would be to contact the linking academic sites to see if they would mention the offending site without placing a link to it.

If you explain how they are actually helping the site by linking to it, you may find that they will remove their direct links, and replace them with non-linking references.

While I am not a fan of censorship, I don't think that a campaign aimed at educating the linking sites is inappropriate. If they understand that they are helping the site, and then choose to do so, then there is little that you can do, but they may be unaware of how their actions are inadvertently helping to benefit the offending site.

Of course, it would be rather time consuming...but if you are looking for a way to affect the site, this is one approach.

hannamyluv




msg:313808
 3:22 am on Dec 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well, here's the results of this discussion...

I value free speech and I figured the rest of you would too, but... there is a point where it has to be closer to correct. There is opinion and there is fact.

I have to admit I entered the realm of a spammer and tonight sent nearly 40 emails to webmasters, professors and students maintaining acedemic websites with a link to the site in question (as a site that was for disinformation). That was only for the first 10 SERPs. I will continue.

I don't know if what I did (and will continue to do) will make a difference but in the words of Margaret Meade

Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that has. - Margaret Meade

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