Thursday, June 05, 2014

Do pundit bloggers exacerbate the "bad review" problem?


Tuesday, I posted still another story about a local service business maintaining that its reputation had been harmed by a single bad online review, and which led it to litigate against the person making the post.  As I noted, although truth is a defense to libel, in practice businesses are concerned that a single customer could put them out of business because of the ease with which Internet content spreads, whereas posters are concerned that they cannot afford the costs of litigation even if they’re right.  And generally, Section 230 protects the sites that facilitate the postings. 

I’ve even wondered if my posting of the stories is like more fuel to the fire, simply distributing the allegations about a business further, under the guise of links.  Technically, someone who links to a libelous story could also be found responsible for libel, although this rarely happens.  Linking to a news story from a reputable media source would not normally pose a practical litigation writ risk to a blogger.  But still, there is a bigger question.  What is the motive of the blogger, particularly if the income from the blog (as from advertising or possibly subscription) does not pay for the “blog’s way”?  Is it “fame”?  Is it personal visibility or satisfaction or “feeling important”?  I guess that’s true.  I do have a “context” that comes when all the blog posts are compared in aggregation (as by using blogger labels to follow the history of an issue or to find similar other stories).  I can imagine amplifying the “context” by linking to summary “conversations” or “all you need to know about”-style explanations, like Vox media does.  I think that adds something.  But people will ask, why should you be the one doing it?  And I ask, why not?

The pressure I get, for example, to become more aggressive in selling book copies or selling ad space, suggests the idea that a speaker should only remain visible if he or she’s work pays its own way (not if the speaker has income or assets from other sources).  The pundit speaker should have the same stake in having to raise families or provide for dependents that “real people” (or “others”) have.  A daycare center operator, carpet cleaner, or home remodeling contractor has a “real business” that has to face “real problems” to support a “real family”.  And a pundit, just out of vanity, can magnify the business’s venial sins to the point that the business fails.  This does sound related to “the right to be forgotten” in Europe.

I make this particular post to convey how I process these things, that can prove to be existential challenges, that I hear.  It does sound like “would’a, should’a, could’a”.  There is a chicken and egg problem.  I don’t have (and didn’t have in the past) more responsibility for children because I don’t have sexual intercourse with women, because that prospect doesn’t make me tick.  I don’t share a lot of other people’s emotions and don’t like to be recruited to “other people’s causes”.  The Internet has given me the opportunity to have a reputation as a distant observer, watching everything, and curiously at the same time makes please for togetherness and solidarity that were unknown during the time I was growing up.

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