Google error

An alarming phenomenon was just brought to the attention of subscribers to the classicists@ mailing list. I think Terrence Lockyer is absolutely right here. I don’t have a problem with google digitizing lots of information: but this sort of thing is very troubling. It’s easy to imagine a day when lots of items are cleared from library shelves on the grounds that they are available digitally anyway (this happens already with journals, all the time); but this will involve putting a lot of trust in digital providers who effectively become the gate-keepers for a large proportion of the world’s information (information which was much safer distributed in multiple copies between libraries, so that if one library lost it another wouldn’t).

Don’t be evil is all very well: but incompetence can be as dangerous as evil in this respect.

Here’s Lockyer’s account:

******

Apologies for the inevitable effects of cross-posting;  however,
this is a matter that affects everyone whose field touches
directly or tangentially upon the cultures of ancient Greece and
Rome, and the classical tradition.  This evening I visited the
site of the Bryn Mawr Classical Review at

http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/

to search for a title in the archives, and was rather surprised
to see against the link to the blog version of BMCR – which of
course provides the option for visitors to leave comments unlike
the traditional web version – usually at

http://www.bmcreview.org/

the following notation:  “Please note that Google has removed all
access to our blog after incorrectly flagging it as a spam blog.
We had requested a review which did not happen, and on September
28 Google removed all access to the blog, which we are attempting
to appeal.”

I find this kind of misjudgement, evidently made in complete
ignorance or disregard of the contents of the blog, especially
worrying from a company that aspires to be, in effect, the
digital librarian and cataloguer of the entire world.  Of course,
due to its very size, Google is notoriously hard to contact
directly;  however, perhaps wide enough attention on blogs and in
other fora might just bring to someone’s attention the gross
error that appears to have occurred.

Terrence Lockyer
Johannesburg, South Africa
e-mail:  lockyert [at] mweb.co.za

******

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