Monday, January 10, 2005

Can you trust blogs?

Here's an interesting question: now that blogs have gained some degree of influence, will we now start to see "black-blog ops" in the blogosphere? That is, deliberate disinformation from influential blogs.

It could be just a matter of time before some of the old-time bloggers start getting offered big bucks to take a particular side or slant a particular story. Or newer "mole" blogs that report fairly, get a following and reputation for fairness, and are then turned to some particular agenda.

Here is good comment on the possibility:

The personal voice in which even most anonymous blogs are written tends to inspire trust. But is that trust deserved? Sometimes, but not always. When Iraqi blogger Zeyad reported crimes by American troops I trusted him because he'd been reliable in the past, and now there's been a conviction in the case. His report could have been bogus, of course, with his earlier truthful posts merely a ruse to gain credibility, but I didn't think so, and apparently I was right. Track records matter. (Mitch Berg thinks you should look at bloggers' day jobs in assessing their credibility, though I'm not sure how much I agree with that.) Still, as Hugh Hewitt warns, "black blog ops," aimed at disinformation, are an inevitability and there are probably some going on right now. A while back, in the context of a much less significant effort to manipulate the blogosphere, I quoted scientist Thomas Ray, who once observed that "every successful system accumulates parasites." The blogosphere is successful enough now, and enough people have noticed that success, that it can expect to attract parasitism. --TCS