Listening to Eric Goldman's talk on Reputational Systems via Berkley iSchool podcasts recently (free on iTunes), I was shocked to learn that a growing number of doctors have their patients sign forms prohibiting patients from writing a review of the doctor. In order to ensure enforcement, the form states that any review of the doctor written by the patient will carry a copyright assigned to the doctor. The doctor can then use a DMCA take down notice to get the review taken down.
Goldman calls this a hack on the system. He is referring to the reputational system that is part of the digital invisible hand. There is some great research on the danger to users as endorsers or endorsees (think Facebook's old automatic endorsement system using beacons), but only after thinking about the type of manipulation discussed by Goldman did I understand the danger to the system as a whole. People will lose faith in endorsements, as explained by William McGeveran and skimmed over by me.
The manipulation of speech by doctors (and software vendors) is not so different from the manipulation in social marketing. Prohibiting a consumer from saying something does not seem that different from making a consumer say something. One instantly triggers the First Amendment and another appropriation, but both tactics attempt to take reputational control away from the consumer and misdirect the invisible hand.
Meg Ambrose is a second year doctoral student in the ATLAS Technology, Media, and Society Ph.D. program. She is researching the impact privacy and intellectual property laws have on creativity and innovation.