Last week, I dutifully posted my Martin Luther King, Jr. links in an effort to help move down the skinhead’s link that was so highly ranked in search engines. I never addressed what I thought about the data manipulation. And at that point, I didn’t care. I was appalled that such a racist organization was posting lies as facts. Will Richardson, the writer of another blog I read, wrote this:
… there is something unsettling about this whole process in terms of how, for ourselves and for our kids, do we get our brains around the scope of the potential manipulation of ideas and information on the Web?
Basically, the skinhead’s MLK site was using manipulation to spread their lies (using King’s name as the domain name to trick viewers into giving the site more credibility than it deserved), and all of us who participated in the Google bombing (see my previous post) were also using manipulation in order to move the skinhead site down in the search engines.
At first, this kind of bothered me, too. Does the end justify the means? In this case, I think it does. But who’s to say that skinheads, or another racist organization, can’t and won’t use the same methods to bring sites back up in rankings? Who’s to say that hasn’t already happened? That when we look for “failure” on a Google search, we don’t come up with the biography of George W. Bush as the very first link and Jimmy Carter’s as the second? Oh wait, we do! It all makes rankings less credible – whether or not you agree with the success and/or failure of George W. and Jimmy. And for what it’s worth, Michael Moore isn’t too far behind them. The point is, whether or not this is ethical, is not really relevant, because it’s already being done. I’m not so sure being good netizens and letting it all happen around us is the best answer. Maybe Google bombing isn’t either. I don’t know.
As educators, I think we must teach our students about credibility. To question “authority.” To believe nothing at first glance. Honestly, I’m not sure how to do this. It was easier in the classrooms of old because they only saw what you wanted them to see – though I’m fully aware that our textbooks weren’t necessarily credible either. But now the information is right THERE. Too MUCH information, and we have to teach them how to decipher it. How to sieve out the bad and find the nuggets of truth. I’m afraid that part of the problem with the Web is that the louder voice, or the larger collection of voices, gets heard, and sometimes it’s the lone quiet voice that no one has heard that is the truth. Are we going to have so much information out there that no one will know what is true anymore?