Sunday, October 11, 2009

BookRev-"Google Bomb". Free Speech Run Amok, the Court Case, the Amazing Verdict, Your Protection

Sue Scheff ran a little business referring troubled teenagers to appropriate programs based on a diagnosed need. Her lawyer John W. Dozier Jr. sucessfully prosecuted the case to a multi-million dollar settlement.

What you don't know about Google, search engines, laws on free speech and how to defend reputation and business could ruin your life.

These two authors give a compelling narrative on how it came down and how to avoid the same happening to you.

Pic of the Day

Google Bomb-John W. Dozier Jr./Sue Scheff

Amazon code for this book.

Because of a chapter in this book I signed up for a Google service that will notify me, via email, of any reference to a specific phrase of my choosing in any Blogs, comments or web sites on the Internet.

The book is about a woman, co-author Sue Scheff, who was attacked by a viciously mean crew of folks to such an extent that she finally sued for damages done to her reputation and livelihood. She won too, being awarded recompense in the millions of dollars. Her lawyer, co-author John Dozier, gives insight to search engines and how to avoid being in the same trap as Sue Scheff. “Make the search phrase your name or the name of your company”, as I paraphrase Dozier’s advice. Well I thought it was a great idea and didn’t even know that Google offered such a service.

“Pat Fish” I told Google to find and notify me anytime this phrase shows up on an Internet web page. It is, ahem, my real name. I figured what with me being such an important Blogger and everything that I’d be inundated with email of web site URL’s containing my name. First day I get an email from Google with notification that my search phrase had been found. I clicked in. It was in a camping page, within which were instructions on how to cook that fabulous fresh fish caught in the sparkling lake just prior to pulling out the fry pan.

“Pat fish dry then roll in bread crumbs…” was the text.

I am humbled.

So while I am a Blogger with some experience on the Internet it’s evident I have not been a victim of what the authors call a “google bomb”, or an all out assault to cause a person or company huge damages by filling web pages with URL’S and commentary deriding the object of their anger. Folks who make google bombs know all the secrets.

I am familiar with the power of almighty Google on the success of a Blog or web site, I bow to the east and the gods of Google at this discussion. I once got put in what is called a Google trash bucket and for three months I got no hits on my Blog. I don’t know why I got put in the trash bucket as Google decides what Google decides and they are the amighty, all powerful, all knowing. Eventually I got removed from the trash bin but that was one awful few months.

And so too can Google destroy reputations and businesses, albeit along with some help from wise humans who know how to play the Google rating game.

Sue Scheff ran a business that referred troubled teenagers to various schools and institutions that deal with these adolescents in many diverse ways. Her business was known as PURE and it was via a client who sought advice from Scheff that Scheff’s nightmare began.

The trouble maker was a woman named Clark who did, in the end, turn out to have a monetary interest in obtaining the name of a troubled teenager who Scheff once gave a referral. Scheff would not reveal the name of the adolescent to Clark, as one might expect as such things are confidential.

The enraged Clark launched into a campaign to destroy Sue Scheff and her company and I don’t think I’ve ever read of such viciousness.

Dozier provides legal insight to the trials and tribulations of taking the case to court, the problem with having a company such as Google having such a disproportionate inpact on the very definition of “success” in this country, how “freedom of speech” is no such thing but a phrase to cover destructive attacks while avoiding responsibility for reputations destroyed.

I took exception to Dozier’s somewhat snide reference to “citizen journalists”, ie Bloggers, as being mostly bad for the Internet influence. There’s good and bad in every bunch of apples and while I certainly do understand Dozier’s disdain for the ungoverned, unregulated frontier known as the Internet, there’s no need to sniff at what is increasingly a replacement for a corrupt mainstream media that no longer does its job. Consider me as having a dog in this race and take this sniff for what it’s worth.

I also had a problem ascertaining when Dozier was writing and when Scheff was writing. At the book’s beginning the reader is told that different typefaces would indicate who is the narrator. Well the typefaces were different but you almost need a magnifying glass to see the differences readily. Or perhaps I’m just getting too old and crotchety.

These issues being said, I bow to Dozier’s assertion that once grievances are known, careful and thoughtful law making is needed to address the matter. There’s no pride in allowing nasty, misguided people to attack the innocent at will under the guise of freedom of speech.

Dozier also provides valuable insights as to how search engines work, how to use paid ads to fight back against Internet attacks, how to guard and protect your name, the ins and outs of the all-important “search engine optimization”.

In short this well-written book is a must read for anybody doing business on the Internet, which is, these days, almost everyone.
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