Eric, I think these are questions that go far beyond online services. My 
public library carries books with descriptions such as: "Learn to 
interpret and understand the cosmic language being spoken by the 
crystals, and unlock your own mystical potential." This is crap, to put 
it mildly, and shouldn't be in the library. If the shelves are filled 
with pseudo-science and even pseudo-mysticism, we aren't doing our job.  
This is the whole "neutrality" thread - it's not "neutral" to serve 
documents without regard to their quality, especially since some of the 
anti-science/medicine things stated in books can do actual harm. We 
should at least do as much as Wikipedia does and label the fringe topics 
as *fringe*, not file them alongside the proven science without comment. 
(Yes, I know this has issues; I still think it's what we should do.)

As for "safe from surveillance" etc., libraries are not miracle workers. 
Everything we do is in the real world. Given that the NSA captures every 
byte conveyed from point A to point B, how *could* libraries do anything 
about that? We've tried, we've honestly tried to shield our users from 
overt surveillance, but our only hope is against inept vendors who can 
be staved off with a simple proxy server.


On 11/15/16 9:28 AM, Eric Hellman wrote:
> I'm sure we've all read articles about the fake news that circulates in an information environment anchored by social media, and the relation of that information environment to the election.
> Libraries are participants in this new information enviroment, so I have some questions.
> 1. Do libraries understand the algorithms and metadata that guide search results and suggestions in the services they provide? Do these algorithms reproduce biases in our society?
> 2. Are libraries provide compelling enough services to be meaningful and reliable participants in public discourse?
> 3. When libraries connect their services to social networks (for example with a Facebook "Like" button) are they making user's the information environment better or worse?
> 4. With many users fearing a more authoritarian state, are libraries providing services that are safe from surveillance by commercial or government entities?
> Eric Hellman
> President, Free Ebook Foundation
> Founder,
> twitter: @gluejar

Karen Coyle
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