The Morality of Paid Links

A lot of bloggers, myself included, have expended a lot of pixels on the subject of determining if paid link companies like PayPerPost and ReviewMe are unethical. But without getting too far up on my high horse, I’d like to also raise the question of morality.

I Love Google

As a guy who performs twenty Google searches per day, I can get misty-eyed thinking about how lucky I am to have Google search improving my life, helping me quickly find the information I want. The idea of Google search being gamed by tens of thousands of paid PayPerPost bloggers is disturbing. How long before Google can no longer distinguish between good content and bad content? The original Google algorithm concept of a link-as-a-vote-of-quality will be completely eroded.

Why Paid Posting and RMP-Linking is Immoral

What would history’s preeminent moral philosopher, Immanuel Kant, have to say about PayPerPost? In the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant lays out his central moral philosophy: the Categorical Imperative. Namely,

“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”

Kant believes that any behavior can be tested by this axiom. For instance, is lying good? Well, imagine if everyone in the world lied, and you can see how the entire institution of truth would be destroyed. Is murder good? Well, imagine if everyone in the world murdered, and again you see how that would play out.

The Categorical Imperative

For those who truly believe there is nothing wrong with paid blog posts, Kant would invoke the Categorical Imperative. Imagine that all internet links become paid, and all internet content becomes an advertisement. Google would become meaningless. Link-based pagerank algorithms would become meaningless. No search could determine quality content. It would become impossible to efficiently find good content on the internet, or find any information free of bias. Bloggers would offer no advantage over traditional media. The entire humanist purpose of the internet – the democratization of human knowledge – would be vanquished.

Don’t Be Evil

This is why the internet needs sites like Wikipedia to remain non-profit and unbiased. And this is why powerful companies like Google have a responsibility to “don’t be evil.”

When I watch Ted Murphy perform linguistic backflips trying to rationalize PayPerPost’s business ethics, I have to wonder if in his heart of hearts, he understands that paid blog posts are bad for the internet.


2 Responses to The Morality of Paid Links

  1. I’ve been hit up by stock promoters trying to get me to talk up their stocks on my blog. It scares me to think that there are bloggers out there promoting stocks for pay because it’s an activity that can actually hurt honest people. I suppose if the promotion were totally disclosed, I’d have less of a problem with it but then who would believe the post in the first place.

    I have a question for you guys at ValueWiki. Have you notice stock promoters on your site pumping stocks?

  2. Jon says:

    Surprisingly not! People have been pretty neutral-voiced so far. No “straight-to-the-moon” type writing yet.

    If it happens, it happens. We’ll just edit it. The power of wiki!


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