Thursday, December 29, 2005

Putting Words in Your [Virtual] Mouth

One aspect of the internet that a lot of people never think about is that it creates a virtual paper trail of our thoughts, ideas and opinions. Every time a person posts an entry in a blog, makes a comment on a blog or website, or even sends an email, our words are captured and stored away for later referencing, sometimes by not very scrupulous people.

It’s bad enough that we may write something somewhere that we later regret, but, due to the ability by some commenting services (Haloscan comes to mind), the ability now exists for the authors of blog sites to edit the comments left on their blog. In other words, it is now possible for ethically-challenged people to have the ability to put “words in your mouth” that will be recorded for perpetuity.

Let’s say you visit a blog and, through the comments section, you get into a fiery political debate. If the blog host is an unscrupulous person and they use Haloscan (I’m sure there are many other such services as well), they could easily discredit you by editing a comment to read, “I love Hitler. He handled the Jews just right” and they could block YOU from making any changes.

Of course, this comment will be picked up by, technorati and lots of other services too. Regardless of the fact you never wrote these words, they will forever be attached to your name. You may receive angry emails denouncing “your” statement. Who knows? You might lose your current job or not be selected for a future job because someone found “your” statement on the internet.

The worse part of all this is how do you prove that your words were reedited without your consent? It’s like trying to prove a voting tally is incorrect where there is no paper trail. You can post all manner of statements all over the net disavowing the statement, but the statement itself will still be there.

I have no problem whatsoever with blog hosts having the ability to delete comments they feel are inappropriate. However, I have a serious problem with blog hosts who have the ability to “put words in my mouth”.

You can rest assured your words are safe on The Rambling Taoist. I have consciously chosen not to use Blogspot’s “Moderate Comments” feature and I almost never delete anyone’s comments either.

You alone are responsible for your own words here.

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