August 24, 2005

Objection to the flag

Blogger, the hosts of millions of blogs inclunding this one, just launched a new feature called "Flag as objectionable". You don't like the blog you are reading? Click on the flag!

Censorship? No, Blogger says: "The Flag button is not censorship and it cannot be manipulated by angry mobs". They explain that they want to prevent spam blogs or illegal contents, which they will delete. And they will unlist blogs with questionable content.
The usual questions come to mind: What is an offensive content? Illegal blog... under which law? Etc.

I understand Blogger wants to do something against "interferences". What puzzles me is that Blogger seem confident in their users: "So we're relying on you, the users, to be our eyes on the web ..." (this sounds scary to me).
Can the blogging community as a whole help identify content they deem objectionable? Is it possible to try to build "global standards" of decency, for example? And won't spam bloggers try to disrupt the system, by flagging every blog they can?


Eric Goldman said...

Cedric, I agree with your concerns, but we have some empirical data that users rating content can work--spam filters and Epinions are two that jump to mind. Personally, I'm a big fan of users rating content but the data has to be interpreted smartly. For example, Epinions stabilizes its system by not counting user ratings equally--more trustworthy votes count for more. Eric.


Karl-Friedrich Lenz said...

Systems like Slashdot or Scoop blog sites also come to mind. There is nothing wrong with having readers give feedback on how much they like what they are reading.

However, framing this the way Google is doing it puts Google in the business of deciding about what content is legal. That in turn might make them responsible for the illegal content some blogger posts, since any flag might be counted as giving them "actual knowledge of illegal activity or information" under Article 14 of the 2000 Electronic Commerce Directive.

That is not good if you happen to think that Google should stay in business. In contrast, I rejoice at seeing them shooting their own foot in this way.

Al S. E. said...

I am putting together a separate blog on this particular topic.