Recovered from the Wayback Machine.
In the comments attached to my previous posting on the weblogging’s influence on Google, I found the most telling line from Elaine:
So, with Googlewhacking, like lobbying, our sense of what’s ethical should prevail.
Our sense of what’s ethical? Our sense of “ethics” is ruled by bias, prejudice, bigotry, elitism, self-interest, and group membership. Our sense of ethics is flexible and to be abandoned on an event by event basis.
The inherent instability of our ethics from moment to moment is why we have laws — a method to crystallize the best of our ethical beliefs, to apply at times when our “ethical” practices morph into self-serving platitudes and behavior.
To some — not all — of the Palestinians, suicide bombings are “ethical”. To some — not all — of the Israelis, invasion of the Gaza strip because of the actions of an extremist organization that’s currently housed in Lebanon is “ethical”.
To some — not all — webloggers, bashing every Muslim country because of the actions of extremists is ethical. To some — not all — webloggers, bashing Jews because of the behavior of some extremists in Israel is ethical.
And among the so-called ethical webloggers, some have negatively categorized or labeled other webloggers based on expediency, bigotry, and other self serving needs.
I have said, and will continue to say:
Webloggers aren’t influencing decisions — they’re influencing the information that influences the decision, and that’s dangerous.
The dangers inherent with a mob mind are no less because the mind is connected via the Internet rather than gathered together in a field, rope in hand.
When weblogging fought back in defense of Operation Clambake, that was a noble act. That was a an attempt to redress a wrong by balancing the actions of one organization, the Church of Scientology, with the actions of another organization, the webloggers. And the status quo of Clambake’s appearance within the Google search results was upheld.
However, when the efforts of webloggers pushed Clambake’s rank to number one, the status quo was also changed — and not based on naturally occurring interests, but based on deliberate manipulation of the weblogger effect.
Was this ethical? Perhaps.
Perhaps in the long run, the actions of webloggers will be necessary in order to counter-act the actions of the church. The church seeks to directly influence Google results so that anti-Scientology web sites don’t show in the first few pages. The webloggers counter to ensure that at least one anti-Scientology web site shows within the first page of the results.
Both organizations are using the weaknesses of Google’s ranking algorithm to influence the flow of information.
How is this not dangerous?
Any manipulation of the flow of information — whether occurring through the censorship or manipulation of the mainstream media, through weblogging, through Google search results — is dangerous. Just because you see the manipulation as being on the side of angels, doesn’t lessen the danger.