Quote to Note: Role of Media and Search

November 30, 2011

Point your browser to “Max Mosley Sues Google over ‘Orgy’ Search Results.” The write up focuses on what media and search engines like Google should do. This is the woulda-coulda-shoulda logic which I find fascinating. The story concerns a “real” news story about a prominent figure, a court order, and the existence of pointers in indexes to the entities referenced in the information chain.

I don’t have a view of what is the appropriate response to the situation or the suggestions offered in the source document. Two quotes caught my attention, and I want to snag them before I lose track of the original.

Quote one:

In his written statement to the inquiry, Mosley [the individual attempting to clean up some improper references to himself] compared the internet to “a sort of Wild West with its own rules which the courts cannot touch”. He said that the “really dangerous thing” is that search engines like Google “could stop a story appearing, but don’t or won’t as a matter of principle”.

The “don’t or won’t” phrase struck me as interesting and heavy with a freight of implications. Exactly what should an algorithm centric system do? How will such a system “know” something is an issue? I sure don’t want the job of hiring editors—assuming there were enough qualified people to do the work and the money to pay them—to convert numerical recipes into tasty, more satisfying human results. Some traditional publishers would do the job if there were money in the work.

Quote 2:

Elsewhere in his Leveson [shorthand for the legal matter] testimony, Mosley reaffirmed his calls for newspapers to always warn people before publishing stories about their private lives…

I don’t know much about how the 20 somethings run newspapers and magazines, but I am not sure some of them are sufficiently well organized to inform one another about what is going on. When I read about the difficulties AOL has communicating with its writers and editors, I think that controlled chaos or no interaction is par for the course. Given the staff cuts and Twitter-driven world of journalism, who is going to inform whom of anything? AOL apparently was confused about a high profile executive’s investment fund. Now an outfit is going to have to get sufficiently serialized to put A before B and then do C?


In Beyond Search, we rely on open source content for inspiration. We then offer comments. In this particular pair of quotes, we will remain silent. A gentle “honk” is the best we can offer.

Stephen E Arnold, November 30, 2011


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