Friday, April 22, 2016

some links for the weekend with a theme, UC Davis scrubbing the internet of its pepper spraying moment

One of the things that comes up in the age of the internet is how institutions and brands find it in their interest to scrub away the things that could be on the internet that make them look terrible.  It won't take huge imaginative leaps to wonder why this might seem like a pertinent topic to mention here.  It's not as though in the course of 2014 we didn't see mountains of material that was formerly available for all and sundry to hear from Mark Driscoll abrupt taken down.  As Mark Driscoll Ministries starts bringing back the hits from a decade ago ...
You get to compare how a sermon you can stream at Driscoll's site today is about half the length it was ten years ago. 
Or take UC Davis ... Moving along and pretending that something you said or did that was embarrassing never happened and taking some kind of measure to keep the internet from remembering it is not merely the domain of formerly megachurch-leading celebrities.
UC Davis contracted with consultants for at least $175,000 to scrub the Internet of negative online postings following the November 2011 pepper-spraying of students and to improve the reputations of both the university and Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, newly released documents show.
April 20, 2016 
Google “University of California, Davis.” What do you see? Who controls what you see?
Until last week, here’s what you wouldn’t see: images of a police officer, back in 2011, pepper spraying a group of student protesters. The students are assembled peacefully, sitting in a line on the ground, heads ducked.
Nobody can change Google’s search results -- not directly -- but anyone can try to game the algorithm. In its proposal, Nevins & Associates, one of the companies UC Davis hired, promised to create a “surge of content with positive sentiment and off-topic subject matter.”

The goal was to flood the Internet: as more content about a particular subject appears online, any negative content will -- hopefully -- get lost in the mix.

“Communicating the value of UC Davis is an essential element of our campus’s education, research and larger public service mission,” the university wrote in a statement after The Sacramento Bee’s investigation broke. “Increased investment in social media and communications strategy has heightened the profile of the university to good effect.” In
a video message Monday, Katehi said that the contracts’ language misrepresented her intentions, and that she had never wanted to erase the pepper spray incident from the university’s history.

For its supporters, UC Davis was just engaging in another kind of PR. After a crisis, they argue, doesn’t it make sense to accentuate the positive and minimize the negative?

Elizabeth Johnson, CEO of market research firm Simpson Scarborough, says the Internet is the primary way people get information about UC Davis -- and if the university’s marketing department wasn’t working on its search engine results, it wouldn’t be following best practices.

“When people search on ‘General Motors,’ General Motors does not want them to land on a page about recalls,” she said. “And when people search ‘UC Davis,’ UC Davis does not want them to land on a page about pepper spray.”

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