Friday, October 10, 2008

The CEO and the Cesspool; Consumer Created Misinformation in an Age of Social Media

Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently referred to the internet as a 'cesspool' of misinformation. These comments are likely to come as a shock; after all, Google have taken firm position as the main information gatekeeper since its creation ten years ago. Schmidt made the comments at a conference for magazine executives; an ironic twist when considering that Google has profited more than most from shifting media consuption away from traditional towards the new media. The comments are likely to once again spark debate as to whether or not user generated content represents quality or dross.

Although the social media has facilitated the consumer's ability to create new and original content, these platforms have simultaneously opened the floodgates of opinion. As such, information available online is becoming ever more voluminous as anyone with an opinion inextricably records it online. Whether or not this is detrimental to public knowledge is likely to remain a topic of debate for the next few years. In my opinion though, access to a far wider pool of information can never be a bad thing. Whilst information has historically been a corollary of traditional establishments, such as the major press organisations, there are limitation to the scope that these organisations can achieve. As I have frequently said before, 'We' can achieve significantly more than 'I'; more often than not in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost.

Whether or not regulation of the social media is a requirement for sifting the accurate information from the misinformation is another question. My personal opinion is that if social media is regulated, a large proportion of those that engage in the conversation willingly are likely to be detered from doing so. As such, the conversation is likely to become hideously directed. If users are unable to accurately convey their opinions then social media is not accurately meeting its potential.

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  1. It's ironic that the CEO of Google came out with these comments, when Google itself is guilty of adding to this "cesspool" with its own acquisitions:

    1. Feedburner - once a great tool for monitoring blog traffic and subscribers, now a broken shadow of its former self (how long does it take to get an email subscription form sorted out?).

    2. AOLb - does anyone still use any of AOL's services? Its IM used to be one of the best - now even social media Im's are just as effective.

    3. Youtube - admittedly can be pretty entertaining, but the majority of videos on there now are either puerile, voyeuristic titillation or inane dross.

    4. Chrome - enough said...

    It's all very well commenting on the state of the Internet, but when you play a big part in how "cesspool-like" it is, it may be a better approach simply to stay silent. Stones and glass houses, anyone?

  2. I honestly couldn't agree more Danny. Personally, I think user generated content is fantastic. Although I don't use Youtube myself, I think that what it repesents is fantastic; that being a hub for users to express themselves. I found Schmidt's comments truly surprising. Surely deeming the produce of one's customers 'a cesspool of misinformation' reflects poorly on the organisation's own product offerings?

    Perhaps Schmidt's comments were simply a means of appeasing a bitter crowd; let us not forget that Google's meteoric rise has come at the cost of the more tradition media. Who knows. In either case though, I would far rather side with my customers than with those organisations that lack the capacity to embrace a clear societal shift. Traditional media holds little contemporary value; publishers should realise that and create a presence within the new media.

    As always, thanks for the comment Danny.