See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

Advocacy: What is it exactly? Is it not the promotion of something? Google’s policy against allowing “advocacy” on its AdWords is the most ridiculous thing I’ve read in a very long time. What happened to their motto: Do no evil? Although Google would no doubt disagree, I would consider the promotion of things and services—marketing, as we tend to call it—advocacy. I would also consider editorializing by news organizations advocacy. And yet, their ads are full of marketing and news organizations. Since Google partially depends on searching news, it couldn’t possible consider news organizations “advocacy” organizations. In Battelle’s blog, he states, “Guess it all comes down to who’s giving them the money.”

As we read on the first page of Dan Gillmor’s We the Media, September 11, 2001, shifted the paradigm for online news (blogs and news organizations) and, therefore, online news search. Since then, news organizations have had to change the way they present news to their consumers. Battelle points to the example of the Economist as a news organization that hasn’t gotten on the online bandwagon. However, has he states, a year is a very short time and a lot has changed. The Economist has reached out to online news consumers while at the same time promoting their online services in their print editions. As an Economist subscriber, I can attest to the fact that each issue has a teaser that sends the reader online to read more on a unique story not found on the pages of the print edition. So, while they may be slow to be proactive about their online services, news organizations have no choice but to go online and hope there are enough people like me who are willing to pay for the tactile satisfaction of print editions.

With even the dinosaurs of the news organizations going online, this opens up more options for our searching tentacles to find. Our post-September 11th culture more than craves searching for news, but feels it is owed news—owed answers. In deed, we are owed answers. We are owed transparency in our government’s actions and we are owed understanding of the world’s events. But, we search for information that is not always owed to us. When search crosses that sometimes hazy line between seeking information that we have a right to and seeking information that we may not have a right to, privacy issues turn up. Battelle states, “…as many privacy advocates fear, perhaps it has noting to do with a right to know—but rather simply the ability to know” (193). As is always the question when we are on the threshold of innovation: Just because we can do it, does it mean we should do it? Evil, after all, is obsessed with the “can” and ignores the “should.”

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