Amazon.com: Fair Game versus Real Names?
Recently, Amazon.com has implemented its Real Names policy in an effort to procure more credible reviews of books. The measure has garnered a good amount of media attention. While higher quality content is a respectable aim, there could be unanticipated side effects. Namely, people who write bad reviews of Dianetics or other L. Ron Hubbard/Scientology books could find themselves subjected to a nasty practice know as the "Fair Game Policy".
"Fair Game Policy" is a doctrine within Scientology that allows its members to do the following to its "enemies": [An enemy] [m]ay be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.
Why would anybody want to take up the "Fair Game" policy against an adverse reviewer on Amazon.com? Book sales, while no doubt revenue generating, also provide a future revenue stream from adherents to the belief system. Reviews that bash Dianetics interfere with that revenue stream.
If you don't think that Scientology would do such a thing, just ask the Internal Revenue Service.
Scientology has gone after archive.org and google.com over caching Xenu.net. Google's cache has returned, while archive.org's remains absent.
In 1999, Scientology used the DMCA to compel AT&T Worldnet to reveal the identity of an individual who had been posting anonymously to alt.religion.scientology. Four years earlier, Scientology breached anon.penet.fi. It is clear that Scientology counts Anonymity among its "enemies".
Scientology's invocation of the "Fair Game" policy has been well documented. It was visited upon Gerald Armstrong (Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, 232 Cal. App. 3d 1060, 283 Cal. Rptr. 917 (1991)) and Gene Allard (Allard v. Church of Scientology, 58 Cal. App. 3d 453 (1976)).
Amazon's Real Name policy makes it easier for reviewers to be targeted. It displays your name, and your city. How hard would it be for Scientology to find somebody with these two pieces of information? A lot easier than it would be for them to crack PGP encryption, and they already tried that.
According the Amazon FAQ, a user may elect to use a Pen Name. However, the FAQ goes on to state that "[t]he use of a Real Name is just one input into a function that much more strongly weights 'helpful' votes when votes are available. People who write great reviews and choose not to use their Real Names will still be the top-ranked reviewers."
While the adverse impact of using a Pen Name rather than a Real Name seems slight, there is still at least some adverse effect. I would consider any review that helped me avoid getting sucked into a cult to be more than helpful. My vote should count the same even if the reviewer wished to avoid the wrath of "Fair Game".
Even if there were no differentiation, one could be subjected to "Fair Game" practices for reviews he or she didn't even write. From the Amazon FAQ: Are my Real Name, Pen Name, and personalized signature unique?
Your Real Name, Pen Name, and personalized signature are not guaranteed to be unique.
Amazon needs to make reviewer names unique, whether "Real" or aliases. Pen Names and Real Names must be made to carry the exact same weight. Hardly any of a review's value is lost in a pseudonym; a reviewer's oeuvre is more telling of his or her biases than the accuracy of the name.
Category:Xenuphobia 0 comments posted 1 Aug 04 @ 10:35 PM