Should Google Be Trusted To Censor Websites According To What It Determines To Be “True”?

Here's irony for you: when Google says it can develop software to decide who's not telling the truth, it's lying.

Here’s irony for you: when Google says it can develop software to decide who’s not telling the truth, it’s lying.

Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil.” It’s well-debased by now: agreeing to help China censor the internet modeled  a non-existent distinction between “don’t be evil” and “don’t assist evil.” I’m not ready to call Google’s looming truth algorithm “evil,” but it is certainly sinister and dangerous.

Google’s search engine rose to dominate the field by using the number of incoming links to a web page to determine where it appears in search results. Pages that many other sites link to are ranked higher. “The downside is that websites full of misinformation can rise up the rankings, if enough people link to them,” says Newscientist.

Now a Google research team is altering the system to measure the trustworthiness of a page, rather than its web popularity. Instead of counting incoming links, the proposed new system would count the number of “incorrect” facts within a page. “A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy,” says the team. Each page will get its computer-determined Knowledge-Based Trust score, which the software will derive by tapping into Google’s  Knowledge Vault, a repository of what Google’s claims is Absolute Truth based on web consensus.  Web pages that contain contradictory information will be bumped down the rankings, so fewer minds will be warped by non-conforming information.

Naturally, the Left, assuming that its view of the universe is the unassailably correct and virtuous one, loves this idea. That should put that”climate change denialists” in their places–at the bottom of web searches. Says Salon, which never met a conservative argument that wasn’t a lie (NEVER met? Oh, oh. There goes Ethics Alarms down the search results!), “Even though the former program is just in the research stage, some anti-science advocates are upset about the potential development, likely because their websites will become buried under content that is, well, true.” Continue reading

A Pause To Spew My Hatred of Spam

A typical day at Ethics Alarms!

One reason, not the only one, but one of them, that I was foiled trying to respond to a series of critical posts on an online forum was that fear of spam had caused the administrators to make it insanely difficult for me to post there—just another way for online spam to plague me. According to Akismet, WordPress’s excellent spam detection service, I now have reviewed and deleted over 45,000 pieces of spam since Ethics Alarms began. (I have to check the spam because occasionally it traps a genuine comment, kind of like dolphins getting caught in tuna nets.)

Let me be clear: I hate these people. I hate the people who send spam, the people who employ spam services, the people who write the deceitful, stupid spam messages, and the spamming outfits that make their grimy living off of it. There is no such thing as an ethical spammer or an ethical company that assists in spamming. By definition, spam is dishonest, as it pretends to offer content when there is none, and purports to represent genuine interest in the site, when it is only interesting in planting a link that will maximize a commercial site’s SEO.

Spam is not only dishonest, but it is insultingly dishonest, because it is so obvious. Continue reading

Allied Against Consumers and Ethics: Google and the Sociopathic Businessman

Today the New York Times extensively documents the unethical business strategy used by the owner of a web-based eyewear business.

After making the discovery that Google does not distinguish between positive and negative mentions of a business on the Internet, he resolved to treat complaining customers as badly as possible to encourage complaints about his company on consumer sites. I do mean “as badly as possible”: the Times relates the accounts of customers who received insulting phone calls, threatening mail, and other harassing and bullying communications from the entrepreneur, who uses multiple aliases. The method works well: since on-line diatribes, complaints and bad reviews have piled up over his poor service, outrageous conduct and often shoddy merchandise, the man’s business is booming. Its name consistently nears the top of Google’s search results when a potential customer types the name of his or her favorite eyewear designer and “eyeglasses,” sometimes placing higher than the designer itself. Continue reading