The Internet makes information very easy to get for anybody, but there are also some sites, which can be manipulated to give us false information. The rating sites are some such sites. Sacha Pfeiffer asserts in her article in the Boston Globe, (1.4.2009), "Ratings Sites Flourish Behind a Veil of Anonymity "that it all started with sites in which students rated their teachers anonymously…
So the reader has to use his own intelligence and judge for himself if the posting is genuine or false. Pfeiffer concludes that as the traffic to these rating cites increase, we will be forced to think of closing the anonymous rating sites. Although the rating sites can be abused, they can also give us useful information. Instead of trying to close the rating sites, we should do something to make the rating sites more responsible and truthful.
According to Pfeiffer, the phenomenal success of sites like RateMyProfessor.com and RateMyTeacher .com, other rating sites sprang up, which rate different things. There is now a huge network of online forums which rate professionals like doctors and lawyers, and services like car repair, plumber service and childcare centers. Even entertainment centers like nightclubs are rated. All the rating can be done anonymously. The public gets enormous amount of information about any service they want. This helps them to choose a lawyer or doctor, or a service provider, which suit them.
The sites may be giving genuine information, or just be misleading the users. The critics of the system say that clients who are angry or dissatisfied can post a malicious comment about any person or service. Similarly, bad tempered students can post an ugly comment on the teacher. Envious colleagues and estranged friends or relatives can post malicious comments. Malicious persons might post comments suggesting malpractice, about a lawyer or doctor. According to Professor Michael Rustad of Suffolk University Law School, who specializes in Internet Law, many of the rating sites are just platforms for getting rid of their strong emotions, for some persons. Rustad further states that "they are not random samples of how this professor or lawyer or doctor is doing." On the other hand, the person concerned can post excellent comments on himself. Since the sites are anonymous, there is no accountability.
Fraud can be detected and removed Internet entrepreneur Bob Nicholson recognizes the problem of abuse of the sites. Calling the rating cites "magnets of abuse", he says that internet users should take the information they get from these sites "for what it's worth." If there are many comments coming from the same Internet address, it points to fraud, where a doctor or lawyer might be generating the comments himself. Similarly, if there are many comments which use similar sentences or phrases, it would mean that the same person is writing the comments in different names. The sites screen such multiple ratings.
Online service providers are protected from being dragged into lawsuits over materials posted by third parties, by the Federal Communications Decency Act. Most of the rating sites bar only obscene and racist comments, and allow everything else. The online users are sure of anonymity on the Internet. It is only because of the anonymity that we have useful sites such as Craig's List and Amazon's user feedback. If there is no anonymity for the user, the nature of Internet itself would change. Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit San Francisco digital rights group, argues that if some people think that they have been misrepresented, they can ...
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