Thursday, August 12, 2010

The tangled Web of lies ~ By Phil Elmore

Well, I was sitting here, wondering if I would be able to write the always brilliant introduction segue to Phil's column. My mind was wondering along as I read the column over and over again, not sure with where I would go with this. But then, the idea popped into my head as I read these words once again: "Speak out against anyone or anything online and it is only a matter of time before someone at least threatens to sue you." Or... uh, worse. Read the first few words again: "Speak out against anyone or anything online...."

That DID get me thinking, and probably not about what Phil was really trying to get across, but it still fits. There's plenty of evidence available to what I have said, and what many columnists and bloggers said, about the President, Congress, and the government in general. And now, as Phil mentions, trying to scrub anything I've ever said in the past would probably be futile. Surely, no liberal woman that researches my internet activity would marry me... Not a problem for me. But, something else could be, as you'll see in the video below. Just sayin'...


Video brilliantly provided by FleetwoodFactor

Speak out against anyone or anything online and it is only a matter of time before someone at least threatens to sue you. As expensive as legal action can become, this is no idle threat, even if it comes from someone who has no real case. You can be bludgeoned into silence by our legal system simply because our technologically saturated society, overall, tolerates falsity. Even as it confronts us with our words from years ago, casting our opinions and our contradictions in stark relief, it shields us from the rightful consequences thereof by allowing us to bully any who might attempt to use that information.

Every one of us must take responsibility for what we say online. We must choose our words with care, and we must understand the stakes. Ultimately, what you choose to believe is a function of your ability to reason. What you choose to support as true or decry as false, however, must and always will be a function of your courage.
By Phil Elmore

Posted: August 12, 2010 ~ 1:00 am Eastern

© 2010

The radio ads chill the soul of any small businessperson. A fictional dentist, describing a billing dispute between his practice and a single customer, bemoans his fate after discovering that his disgruntled patient has posted a negative "review" of the dentist online. Paid Actor, DDS, doesn't know what he's going to do: His referrals have stopped, his word of mouth has gone silent, and his phone has stopped ringing. When all seems lost, the listener is told that there is hope, in the form of something called "Reputation Defender."

The site claims that it can help you "remove, at your request, inaccurate, inappropriate, hurtful, and slanderous information about you and your family using our proprietary in-house methodology." Just what that "in-house methodology" might be is not clear. When confronted with slander or libel online, one's recourse is pretty much to sue or don't. This isn't so much a methodology as a legal reality. The problem described in the advertisements, however, is a real one. Anyone can say anything about anybody online.

The proliferation of online reviews is both blessing and curse. Product reviews at can help you decide if you wish to buy a book you've never read – but those same reviews often become platforms for arguing personal agendas, as ratings for material the readers haven't even seen are posted as protest (or support) for the work of the author. If you take to the Internet to research the purchase of a piece of new electronic equipment – perhaps a new DVD player – you'll find yourself confronted with negative reviews for every single product you consider, while balancing these against some postings that directly contradict the others. In the process, you'll learn a great deal about which companies "suck," which authors don't know what they're talking about and which consumer goods you simply can't live without. Some of this information will even be true.

What's more, there are sites online that present reviews as if they represent professional pronouncements rather than random and anonymous (to you) opinions. Take, for example, Ripoff Report. The site apes the appearance of a consumer-reporting watchdog site. Read the fine print, however, and you'll discover that Ripoff Report makes absolutely no attempt to verify its content, which is posted by random Web denizens. Those who register with the site simply click an acknowledgment that what they are saying is supposed to be true. They can then post whatever they like, for whatever reason, and no verification of their statements will be attempted. In looking for information on Ripoff Report, I found another site declaring the first one an elaborate extortion scheme. We are, all of us, only a search term away from public defamation.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt knows only too well that you have no privacy in an age when the Internet pervades and informs everything you do and everyone you know. According to Network World, the head of the Web's most potentially evil, intergalactic, all-seeing Eye of Sauron search engine (still reeling from ongoing accusations concerning its illegal collection of wifi data during its invasive Google Earth trawling) said "many creepy things about privacy" at something called the "Techonomy Conference." Specifically, Schmidt proclaimed that the future of the Web is the complete lack of the anonymity. It's simply too dangerous for you to be anonymous, he says, and governments will "demand" you be identifiable.

Schmidt upset a lot of people with his remarks, as he so often does when he speaks in public. This man, who has no regard for your privacy, previously blackballed reporters from CNet after CNet used Google to publish personal information about Schmidt. The popular technology site was making a point – and so was Schmidt. In the latter's case, Eric Schmidt was haughtily declaring, "Do as I say, not as I do." He was also reminding us that technology today exposes everything we do and say, for good or for ill.


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