We’re finding ourselves more and more embroiled in the safe-surfing or site-rating controversy. With every new stationery collection we release, we are getting more and more feedback from people who are surprised that they’re getting warnings about our site. We are starting to hear from other site owners who are similarly negatively affected by these so-called safe-site or safe-surfing programs.
We’ve been on the Web since 1998. Since the day we started our first site, we’ve kept our reputation and our integrity above all else whenever we’ve added anything new to our site – or whenever we created a new free file for download. We’ve long been strong advocates against adware and spyware; we’ve turned down a substantial amount of money by turning away companies who w anted us to bundle their software with ours. We could have been far more financially successful had we accepted any of those offers. Instead we took the high road and protected our reputation and integrity – to us they’re more valuable than money.
But it doesn’t matter how long or how hard we have fought against those out to trick users or to use them for financial gain. We are currently finding some of our sites and pages being rated negatively by Norton’s incorrectly named “Safe Web”. This week we issued a stationery collection and heard from several subscribers using AVG that AVG was warning them away from our site?
Where does all this nonsense end? Can you imagine this happening in the real world? On the web, a small number of anonymous individuals can affect and influence a company to negatively rate harmless and safe sites as harmful or dangerous. If this happened in the real world legal action would result. But these so-called security companies cover their you-know-whats by leaving the site-rating aspects of their programs up to “communities” of ordinary users. That way they can avoid any potential legal consequences by blaming the community for the ratings. The only reason they use communities is to avoid litigation, but they don’t hesitate to list the Web rating system as one of the “great” features of their programs. They want the rewards without the risks – and thousands of sites like ours are being hurt by it.
Norton (Symantec), AVAST, AVG, and McAfee all have some sort of safe-surfing or safe Web site rating system – and they are all based on communities composed of “ordinary users” so they can distance themselves from the harm they cause to sites like ours; so they can avoid legal retribution.
As we’ve written in past articles, with regard to WOT (Web Of Trust), these communities, composed of individuals, allow a handful of active members to skew the site ratings to the negative. These individuals remain anonymous. They don’t need to have any training or special knowledge – all they need is a password and a user name and they can run amok in these communities harming innocent sites and people, without fear or legal consequences or without the sites who were harmed even knowing who these people are. WOT, AVAST, AVG, McAfee, Norton – and all the others who use community-base site ratings are hurting the Internet by causing serious financial harm to innocent Web sites.
In the real world, companies, corporations and individuals are held responsible for their actions – but not on the Web. Norton, McAfee, AVAST, AVG and others have learned that using community-based ratings provide them with the perfect shield from ever having to be responsible for the harm they are causing.
It’s time for these companies to stop hiding behind communities of anonymous users – and start being responsible for their actions. Many good and safe sites are starting to suffer and that’s simply not right. It’s not good for you, it’s not good for us and other decent sites, and it’s not good for you.
That’s what we think. Please tell us what you think.