Yahoo! Answers’ Irresponsible Behavior

In small print, Yahoo! says it doesn’t verify/isn’t responsible for the accuracy of answers posted to Yahoo! Answers. I get that, and wouldn’t expect it to. But there has to be a way to identify/remove/update information that is grossly inaccurate. At Wikipedia, for example, sure someone can post completely inaccurate information, but at least someone can come along later and edit that post pointing out to anyone who cares about an inaccuracy.

Not so with Yahoo! Answers because it allows the person who asked the question to essentially shut down further answers on the question by designating it as answered satisfactorily. Even this wouldn’t be so much of a problem if Yahoo! Answers pages didn’t inherit Yahoo!’s page rank in Google, so they occasionally turn up on the first page of search results in Google even though they contain wild inaccuracies.

For example, the other day I blanked on the name of Leon Kass, chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics during the Bush administration. Among other things, people have highlighted Kass’s bizarre view that eating an ice cream cone in public is a disgusting, animalistic behavior that civilized people would never engage in.

My Google search, however, turned up this Yahoo! Answers page as the very first result, even though it is filled with inaccuracies.

Karl Zinsmeister, G. Bush’s ‘Morals and Ethics’ advisor (hey, don’t laugh Demos — you’ve got Ted Kennedy and Jore Biden on the Semate Ethics Committee!) — published a White Paper naming his chief concerns about US morality.

Near the top of the list was Mr. Z.’s florid statements about a lewd practice he sees as “descended from cats and dogs”, and which should be “confined, if necessary at all, to private places so as not to offend the general public”. What is the awful degenerate behavior so threatening to decorum and even Our Way of Life?

Hold onto your hats — it’s EATING ICE CREAM CONES!!!
Hundreds of words spewed out about this by a man with the President’s ear — chosen by him in fact to gauge moral sensibilty. Just when you thing the Bush administration has reached its limit for abject insanity, another summit comes into sight.

Of course, it wasn’t Karl Zinsmeister but rather Leon Kass. Zinsmeister was Director of the Domestic Policy Council¬† beginning in 2006.

Moreover the claim this appeared in a white paper strongly suggests — and in fact commenters to the page pick up and amplify this — that the ice cream quote appeared in a document Kass prepared as part of his role in government. In fact, it appeared in his 1999 book The Hungry Soul which specifically examines the paradoxes and problems with eating.

But there’s almost no way to point that out because the person who wrote all that closed the page after receiving a satisfactory answer to his or her question.¬† Yes, you can still post a comment, but the comments are effectively hidden so it is very unlikely anyone will notice them, much less read them.

So this inaccurate information just sits out there, potentially deceiving folks and getting relatively high page rank due to its association with the Yahoo! brand.

One thought on “Yahoo! Answers’ Irresponsible Behavior”

Leave a Reply