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The Dangers of Web Annotation

From: Doug Schepers <schepers@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2016 04:50:31 -0400
To: W3C Public Annotation List <public-annotation@w3.org>
Message-ID: <56FB9357.40506@w3.org>
Hi, folks–

We've focused mostly on 3 things in this group:

1) the annotation model
2) the annotation REST protocol
3) the anchoring mechanism (e.g. FindText API)

The charter describes other deliverables [1]; my annotation architecture 
diagram goes into details on a few more [2].

But we haven't really discussed the social implications of Web 
Annotations, outside of some informal chats. Specifically, we haven't 
determined notification and curation models, which are critical if Web 
Annotations are to be used as a social good, rather than an avenue for 
harrassment; nor have we discussed the idea of opting-in or opting-out 
of allowing annotations a particular site.

There's been an interesting (if disturbing) thread the past few days 
about how Genius is being used for what could be considered harassment 
(and for rude comments, at the very mildest). I suggest that we read and 
discuss the blog post [3], Medium articles [4], tweets [5 – 10], and 
Github issues [11] that describe this abuse, and try to think about what 
our role, as technologists and standards folks, can do to help the 

Ultimately, if Web Annotation does take off as a feature of the Web, 
these cases will become all too common. And I don't think that scholarly 
and academic uses will be immune (though the accountability and 
reputation risk will reduce abuse). And if such abuse continues, it 
reduces the value and incentive for Web Annotation to succeed at all.

I don't want to derail the current push towards Recommendation, but I do 
think it behooves us to treat this seriously, maybe on this list, or 
maybe in other forums, such as I Annotate, and to discuss it with the 
broader community on social media, where they have started the conversation.


[1] https://www.w3.org/annotation/charter/
[2] http://www.w3.org/annotation/diagrams/annotation-architecture.svg
[5] https://twitter.com/brosandprose/status/713380185001836544
[6] https://twitter.com/brosandprose/status/714668474904264706
[7] https://twitter.com/TheFriskyFairy/status/714843748199493633
[8] https://twitter.com/FeralHomemaking/status/714970696867319810
[9] https://twitter.com/krues8dr/status/714999625090994176
[10] https://twitter.com/krues8dr/status/714999849205305345
[11] https://github.com/opengovfoundation/madison/issues/920

Received on Wednesday, 30 March 2016 08:50:36 UTC

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