Thursday, May 8, 2008

Set Information Free – May 8, 2008

The beauty of Web 2.0 is the idea that information on the web is now provided by everyone, and that the hope is if enough people participate, then the truth will come out.

Wikis are a great example of how the Internet's population is allowed to control the information provided on/about anything. This seemingly poses a problem, since it allows anyone the ability to lie or fabricate information, yet only factual evidence continues to surface to the top. Why?

This answer is crowd control. It's a beautiful thing! At the same time information is being created, it is also being read instantaneously by a subjective audience. Any information that is incorrect is likely to be altered within moments. Also, the individual who provided false information can be castigated by the readers, and be prevented from altering content in the future. Of course there is the occasional delinquent who alters the information temporarily, but it isn't a large enough problem that wikis fail.

Wikis are awesome because they can react faster than the Merriam Websters, Encyclopedia Britannicas, etc of the world, but at the same time retain topics about important people, places, events, movements, and almost anything important that ever happened. As a result, you can get information about popular cultural or ancient history with a few clicks of the mouse.

So, why the long flabbergasting about the incredible power of crowd sourced knowledge? I’ve started to come across thousands of YouTube videos that have now been “removed” or “no longer found”. Specifically, I wanted to watch videos that had surfaced of old racist Disney videos, not because I’m a racist, but because I wanted to see just how bigoted Disney was at the time. Unfortunately, YouTube had taken them down. I know the reason they took them down was due to copyright laws, but I think that the videos should not have been censored.

Americans and reporters have a right to access this type of information. Disney is clearly not making money off these older clips, nor are they gaining some sort of obscure royalties from them. The fact that Disney is asking that these videos be removed from YouTube is obvious recognition that they are ashamed of the videos. Disney, however, still does not have the guts to stand before America and apologize for the stereotypes they portrayed in their films.

The Disney example is just one of many. I ask YouTube and all the other companies to take lead from Digg’s founder Kevin Rose, and no longer sway to the demands of people trying to dictate the substance of their content.

We have a right to know, we have a right to information, both good and bad. Just because a technology platform exists that not one person can control, does not mean it should become the subject of criticism. Big media and old, slow moving corporations are forever afraid of socializing their content, and it’s time they get passed that. I’ve heard arguments on both sides of the equation (e.g. if NBC doesn’t make money on the shows they produce, than they can’t invest in future production OR people shouldn’t have to be restricted to when and where they view their content), and I feel that there is a happy medium. Maybe it’s a universal ad revenue sharing platform, or perhaps it’s a something else, but I know one thing for sure, things have to change.

No comments: