Is anyone else freaked out by the Yelp-for-people site getunvarnished.com?
I am raising a lot of questions here, and I apologize in advance for flexing Fluther’s guidelines a bit, but I think this is a critical issue and would like to get everyone’s input. If you haven’t heard of getunvarnished.com, check out this article and this one. Basically, this is Yelp.com for people. People! Using real names! Maybe your real name! While oriented towards employers/employees, anyone can leave anonymous reviews of anyone, and you cannot opt-out if someone leaves you a negative review. Coworkers.com launched a similar idea, wherein you can track your performance by opting-in to the service and having supervisors comment and rate your performance, but getunvarnished.com is open to anyone (although it is still in beta testing now, so you’ll need an invite, which means that people might already be slandering you and you wouldn’t know about it, or be able to do anything about it).
Frankly, this site epitomizes everything tragic and counterintuitive about “Web 3.0” and social networking. The “beauty” of Facebook is that you have control over who writes on your wall and what information is out there (although it is somewhat dubious how that information is ultimately used). But this is a whole different can of worms. Not only does it allow coworkers with vendettas to leave pernicious, indelible comments about basically anything about you, but it allows anyone with whom you may have had a spat—online or not—to potentially ruin your career, relationships, etc. even if they are not true.
Getunvarnished allows you to respond to negative posts, similar to how Amazon allows negative ratings of sellers to respond to negative ratings. But what legal remedies does one have if slandered on this site? Is it worth filing a lawsuit against a reviewer who simply states you are unintelligent or untrustworthy? What is the legal test for proving a single comment impacted your reputation in a community? And how do you prove their comments are based on falsehoods? How does one prove one is not unintelligent? Will there be a point that we reach, like many of us have with Facebook, where we simply do not care who has our information?
We might have had to deal with rumors, gossip, etc. before in our private social lives, but we have the social tools to deal with them: since the rumors and slander are confined to a distinct network, we can disqualify certain comments based on the slanderer’s reputation or character as it is known within a particular social context. We can also confront a person directly if we found out they were trashing us. However, we don’t yet (I believe) possess the social skills, nor the legal or operational mechanisms, to deal with e-rumors and e-slander. Getunvarnished seeks to establish this same social process for credibility by using “trust” scores akin to Amazon.com reviewers’ credibility scores, which are based on how useful users found a particular review. But, seriously, really? We’re dealing with people here.
Let’s say you went out on a blind date with someone you encountered through an online dating site. Before the end of the date, you know each other’s full names and quite a bit of personal information; what, then, is to prevent them from feeling a bit vengeful after you don’t call them back, posing as a “co-worker” and leaving a retaliatory, yet credible post (as they have the personal experience with you and some personal background) on this site, albeit as an anonymous reviewer? What if you dated the person for more than a few weeks, and you dumped them? And, you know, what if they were maybe more than a little bit crazy?
I’m not a particularly distrusting person when it comes to my feelings for other people, but I do know that humans succumb to specific types of impulses online, they make irrational decisions, and they do not always have the foresight to predict the ramifications of these decisions. However, until now, these ramifications, generally speaking, impacted themselves only.
To answer my own question, I think these reviewing principles don’t, can’t and shouldn’t apply to people. I’m sorry. Are sites like this inevitable? I believe people’s lives can be ruined through sites like this, and this may be an area where new legislation regarding e-slander is the only means by which protection can be afforded. This site may have the best intentions as a potential tool to be used by employers, but the risk is enormous that the site will metastasize far beyond the professional world, causing pain much worse than simply preventing people being hired ever again.
This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.