Posting to NGC4LIB
Ex-President Bill Clinton has suggested the creation of some kind of agency that would “be independent” to seek out and “correct” factual errors on the Internet, and has come under a lot of criticism for it, with critics calling it a “truth regulator” or a “Ministry of Truth” etc.
(a more neutral article is at Politico) http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0511/54951.html
But he makes a valid point with: “Somebody needs to be doing it, and maybe it’s a worthy expenditure of taxpayer money.” As I have mentioned in several posts, one “user need” that I have heard requested very often, from little children to advanced researchers, is the need for selection. People are gradually becoming suspicious of Google and its algorithms (at last!), while private, for-profit corporations are vulnerable to all kinds of manipulation from the public, from their competitors, and from all kinds of forces in the world. Their business aim of “make the customer happy” is not always the same as telling people the truth. Besides, people still find a lot of junk in the search results of Google and Yahoo while missing a lot at the same time. But let’s face it: people find a lot of junk in libraries and miss a lot there too, but the perception is completely different.
I don’t believe that Bill Clinton was suggesting any kind of censorship, but more of a “reliable space” to find out what the current thinking is on certain topics. This is not a new idea, but was suggested by H.G. Wells in his book “World Brain” where he suggested the idea of the World Encyclopedia. Here is an article where he wrote about the Encyclopedia https://sherlock.ischool.berkeley.edu/wells/world_brain.html
Wells did not foresee the Internet, and compared his encyclopedia it to the Britannica, but I am sure he would agree that the Internet would certainly make it far easier. His idea was not like Wikipedia, although many have suggested it. It would be much more like Citizendium, written by experts, but still with important differences since according to Wells, articles would be written differently, with sections (summaries) for different readers in mind: researchers to journalists to interested laymen to children.
When looked at in this way, I think that everybody would like it because it would be designed with everyone in mind, and if the true global collaboratory powers of the Internet could be used today, plus significant government funding to keep it independent, I would agree with Bill Clinton: it would be a worthy expenditure of taxpayer money.
Of course, Clinton’s idea is to build a place to verify facts. There are some sites like that now, http://www.factcheck.org/, http://www.politifact.com/, http://www.snopes.com/ and
http://www.opensecrets.org/ are the ones that I know. Some would include Wikileaks in this list but I doubt if he would. I think more is necessary, but his idea would be a good first step.
Naturally, librarians would be important parts of this….