Cloud of Unknowing
The word “cloud” has entered the computing vocabulary in more senses than one. As well as the term for an indefinite network region where an application is remotely executed, it has currency in the world of Web 2.0, where a “tag cloud” is a visible group of tags — clickable key words associated with the main topic being explored.
The size of a tag-word in the cloud indicates its popularity in previous searches.
During a recent discussion arising from an address by lawyer-author-blogger Kim Sbarcea an E-taler asked whether a misleadingly prominent tag-cloud reference could be grounds for a defamation suit.
He had noticed that a search for the word “pornography” in the database of the Brisbane Courier-Mail newspaper put the name of a certain female singer prominently in the tag-cloud. This appears to be the result of a controversial semi-nude photograph of the artiste which occasioned media comment almost a year ago — yet the name persisted until recent weeks.
Sbarcea said she knows of no precedent, but there might be a tenable legal argument that so long after the event, the singer’s reputation was being unfairly lowered by her presence in the cloud. An action might be worth trying, she said.
The singer’s name now seems to have faded from view — but the topic of unfortunate photographs has gained new currency in recent weeks with a tenuous claim in respect of a nude picture said to be of Aussie politician Pauline Hanson.
Yes, our E-taler did check. Hanson hasn’t made the “porn” stakes, but her name comes up in large point-size in the Courier-Mail’s tag-cloud for “nude”.
Local blogger Mark Harris — who has strong views on copyright and related matters — also has a tag-cloud on his site. One of the larger names to be displayed there is “Cameron Smith”.
Having had conversations on copyright with the similarly named Campbell Smith, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand, our E-taler was curious about the coincidence.
It appears to be a glitch. Clicking on the tag for “Cameron Smith” brings up a lot of entries mentioning Campbell Smith; and yes, he is correctly named in every one. E-tales wonders how that happens — and whether any copyright liberal named Cameron Smith could see the error as potentially defamatory.
The most prominent two people of that name on a google.co.nz search are a Melbourne rugby league player and a Christchurch pharmacist. We have no idea of the views of either on s92A or ACTA.
One out-of-the-office E-taler out of the office uses the 018 directory service to get the phone number for Gen-i. “No such company,” the operator says. He carefully spells the name for her. Still no such number “anywhere in New Zealand.” He points out that Gen-i is part of Telecom. “Well, I don’t work for Telecom,” she replies.
So this young woman decides to use Twitter to tell her followers that she has received a job offer from Cisco and in her words... “Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.”
A certain Tim Levald, Cisco’s Community Development Strategist, saw the Tweet... I am assuming he was using Twitter to monitor the real-time conversations involving the company... and responded, “Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.”
In less than 24 hours a girl who was contemplating a job offer in these tough times no longer has an offer and is being publicly ridiculed on the internet.
People used to warn about sending questionable emails... Twitter can get you in trouble much faster than email. Maybe we can start using the phrase “24 hours of fame” along with “Cisco Fatty”.