Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Corporate ethics? A tale of two choices...

It is a disturbing juxtaposition: in the same week that Facebook refused to remove hundreds of bullying comments about teenager Amanda Todd, who recently took her own life, another Internet company, ServerBeach, shut down, with almost no notice, 1.4 million blogs of teachers and students due to a copyright infringement issue.

The Amanda Todd situation is tragic. A young woman took her life at least in part due to cyber-bullying. Even after her death, harassing comments and pictures continued to appear on Facebook. Those who reported these violations which were not removed received a message:

Thanks for your recent report of a potential violation on Facebook. After reviewing your report, we were not able to confirm that the specific page you reported violates Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

The reality is that the online harassment continues, and Facebook is failing to take action that could potentially prevent further harm to Amanda's family and other teens impacted by this cyber-bullying. (see: http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/investigations/facebook-speaks-out-about-amanda-todd-amid-post-mortem-bullying)

In contrast, when Pearson discovered that a blog entry contained a few paragraphs (a set of 20 test questions) of a book published in 1974, the disabling of copyrighted content was swift and comprehensive. The blog owner had failed to pay Pearson the $120 licensing fee for using the content. Even though the content was removed from that blog, there was a "cached" version somewhere on the server (but it could not actually be viewed by anyone). Within 12 hours of receiving an automated warning message, edublogs.org was disabled by the hosting company ServerBeach, in response to complaints from Pearson. This had the effect of taking 1.4 million blogs offline - blogs mostly used by students and teachers during the school day. (see: http://wpmu.org/serverbeach-takes-1-45-million-edublogs-offline-just-12-hours-after-sending-through-a-lame-dmca-notice/)

I don't believe corporations have any place in our schools, and this is a perfect case in point. Corporations have one primary interest - their own profits. When human interests compete, the playing field is not even. When corporations say they want to help students or help schools, we need to remember that they want that only so long as it is profitable for them. When interests collide, corporations will choose profits over people most of the time.

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