September 07, 2007

Search engines, reputation, and denial of harm

I find one of the most frustrating aspects of certain types of punditry is that a critic can never win. One of the common patterns of unfalsifiability is to argue the following two propositions against each other:

1) Have you heard about anyone hurt by that problem? No? So no problem.

2) Oh, you did hear about someone hurt by problem? Well, that proves there's no problem, since Action Was Taken.

It's cruel, since:


We have a perfect example in a follow-up to the recent story about "When Bad News Follows You", regarding how problematic search engine results can potentially affect people's reputations. One person mentioned in the story became a cause celebre, which is fine, but that was twisted into more grist for denial:

The one non-blogger I wrote, [name redacted] of Slate, kindly took notice:
"Garfunkel's success at remaking Kraus' Google image so quickly with such little effort supports my original view that the alleged problem is de minimis."

The success was all luck. ...

But nobody is going to hear the Z-list contradiction of the media pundit, or if so, he then has the option of writing a personal attack from on-high that can't be effectively responded to (unless the targets have powerful allies, in which case the denial process plays out recursively).

Of course, this post won't be heard (much) either ... :-(

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on September 07, 2007 04:03 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Hey, [name redacted] is a nice guy. (nice guy = decent journalist not angling for a piece of the action). Yes, we spoke over the phone, and I tried to push the angle about values and such, and, his response, through the column, was that it, in his words, "supports my original view..."

So I petitioned el Goog. I'll check with Eszter, too.

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel at September 7, 2007 06:50 PM

Posted by: dsakladatgnudotorg at September 8, 2007 12:20 AM

Hey, leave me and my site outta this :p

Posted by: Paul William Tenny at September 8, 2007 01:04 AM