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[ NNSquad ] False Attack on Google Highlights the Web's "Idiot Echo Chamber"

       False Attack on Google Highlights the Web's "Idiot Echo Chamber"


There was (I like believe) a time when supposedly reputable
news-oriented organizations made the effort to try independently
verify "news" -- at least to the extent of verifying easily available
materials -- before writing about or republishing items likely to
inflame passions and falsely damage reputations.

Unfortunately, it seems that on the Web these days, if you figure you
can capture some quick eyeballs and their connected clicks, accuracy
is the least of your concerns.

This state of affairs creates what I've been calling the "idiot echo
chamber" -- as usually idiotic accusations spurt out from a single
source and then echo around the Net as purported facts -- when in
reality they're nothing of the kind.

We've just been treated to another vivid example of this, courtesy
(initially) of reliably Google-hating "Consumer Watchdog" and Putin's
propaganda channel "Russia Today (RT)."

This sorry sequence began when Consumer Watchdog breathlessly
proclaimed that Google had been caught in a legal brief proclaiming
that "Gmail users have no expectation of privacy."  RT picked up the
story, and sites that we normally would consider to be reasonably
reputable started echoing it without further investigation, playing on
the current climate of government surveillance furor (and in many
cases, related hyperbolic and unjustified paranoia).

Unfortunately for the fearmongers, there was a problem.

The specific quote and associated legal discussion didn't actually
relate to Gmail users at all, and had been taken obviously and utterly
out of context.

In fact, the language in question related specifically to
third-parties sending email to Gmail users, not to Gmail users

We all know (or should know) that when you send email to someone, that
someone normally has the right to process and use that email as they
see fit.  If you send email to a Gmail user, or a user of any other
email system, that email becomes subject to that system's facilities
for spam and phishing scanning, sorting, searching, saving,
forwarding, redistribution, and all manner of other operations of the
addressee's chosen email environment.

All Google was saying (in this ridiculous case where plaintiffs are
insanely arguing that a Gmail user receiving email from a non-Gmail
user shouldn't be able to use the full scope of Gmail functions), is
that in normal cases the sender of email doesn't get to dictate what
the receiving email system (and receiving user) does with it.

Any other interpretation would be both disingenuous and in any
practical sense utterly ludicrous.

If news sites had bothered to take a few minutes to inspect the actual
court filing (widely available online), they should have immediately
noticed that the section of the filing containing the supposedly
controversial statement specifically related to non-Gmail users'
expectations, and so in reality wasn't a controversial statement at
all -- simply common sense and widely accepted practice.

I don't really expect any better from Consumer Watchdog or Putin's RT.
But it seems reasonable to at least hope for more sense from
mainstream news and other websites who portray themselves as accurate
sources of information.

Here's some free advice for those latter sites.  The next time you see
a story on your screen -- regarding any topic -- that seems so
outrageously controversial that you just know it will attract viewers
like flies to honey no matter how inaccurate it is, please consider
doing yourselves and your audiences a favor -- and spend a bit of time
thinking about whether or not the story really makes any sense -- and
then try to do at least a modicum of investigation and confirmation
before dumping it onto your own websites.

Yes, you may give up some clicks in the short run, but at least you
won't keep renewing your starring roles in the "idiot echo chamber"

(Disclaimer: I'm an occasional consultant to Google.  My postings
would be exactly the same if I weren't.)
  - - -
Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com): http://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: http://www.pfir.org/pfir-info
 - Network Neutrality Squad: http://www.nnsquad.org 
 - PRIVACY Forum: http://www.vortex.com/privacy-info
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Google+: http://google.com/+LaurenWeinstein 
Twitter: http://twitter.com/laurenweinstein
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 / Skype: vortex.com
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