RE: The Dangers of Web Annotation

Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. :

Yes, the last several days have been interesting.  It’s clear that there is a) a technological magic that sets annotation off from other kinds of discussion (twitter, reddit), and b) a certain lack of self-awareness on the part of some organizations at play here.

There is a narrative argued here ( that somehow annotations are an overlay that users bring to the page, and that this is users’ choice and page owners have no agency to protest.  While there are some obvious merits to that perspective, I think it ignores what we’re all actually trying to do here, which is to create something that ultimately ends up (more or less) in browsers, or at the very least as a pervasive technology that is widely used and generally visible.

We at H. believe that these issues must be addressed head on, and its up to all of us within the WAWG, and the larger open annotation community generally to do so.  It’s possible that there may be a role for standards here as well—curious as to others’ thoughts on that.  

Several themes are emerging:

a) The notion of “consent to be annotated", i.e. can folks opt-out of annotation on their pages, and what would an opt-out mean. i.e. is it a request that can be overridden if something is in the public interest?  How do we preserve the notion of “Truth to power” that annotation represents, while giving people that create (for instance) personal pages that say very personal things some protection. (Imagine that the government of Turkey sets their sites to all be opt-out, should we respect that? Would we respect the personal blog of an [ISSUE] skeptic whose posts are widely cited and used as evidence in larger debates?).  How would such an opt-out be signaled?  Is there a standard metatag on the page that indicates a preference of the page author?  an “annotate.txt” file?  etc.   What are the things one might opt out of?  (annotation, or only some kinds of annotation [you might still want to receive copy-edits], being proxied, etc.)

b) Approaches to deal with abuse.  What are the range of policies, automation and flagging (among other things) that annotation providers should employ to lead responsible communities.

c) What else?

I absolutely think that a session, probably a panel, or panel-assisted larger group discussion, at IA on this is the perfect thing.  
Maybe a double slot. That would mean reducing the number of presentations we can accept (happening separately by the program committee).  

Another option would be to swap in this session for one of the unconference sessions in the afternoon (perhaps a better solution).  

What I’d love suggestions on is:
- Format (panel, facilitated group discussion, hybrid, something else).
- Length
- When
- Who— if we do have some speakers, who might they be.  Are there folks in Europe people know who are particularly thoughtful about these issues?  Range of perspectives is helpful.  

Thanks for bringing this up Doug, and for the follow on discussion.


On March 30, 2016 at 7:58:03 AM, Salisbury, Davis - United States ( wrote:

Just weighing in to say that I believe that this is an important issue. Seems like a perfect thing to discuss at iAnnotate. I think the wider conversations around the Web are doing a good job of bringing issues to light and getting the conversation going, but it would be good for this group to have a stance and to contribute to it as well. Dan's blog post is a good start.  

Davis Salisbury  

-----Original Message-----  
From: Doug Schepers []  
Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 10:49 AM  
To: Siegman, Tzviya - Hoboken; Ivan Herman  
Cc: W3C Public Annotation List; Dan Whaley  
Subject: Re: The Dangers of Web Annotation  

Thanks for passing that on, Tzviya!  

As expected, Dan and the team are thoughtful and responsive to the social implications of their work, and I appreciate their leadership here.  

A session at I Annotate would be useful, and the various conversations happening around the Web need to happen in their own spaces; I hope that we can add to the dialog by focusing some conversation on the technical and policy sides.  


On 3/30/16 7:25 AM, Siegman, Tzviya - Hoboken wrote:  
> Dan blogged about it yesterday [1]. Great idea to discuss at iAnnotate.  
> [1]  
> Tzviya Siegman  
> Digital Book Standards & Capabilities Lead Wiley  
> 201-748-6884  
> -----Original Message-----  
> From: Ivan Herman []  
> Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 5:18 AM  
> To: Doug Schepers  
> Cc: W3C Public Annotation List; Dan Whaley  
> Subject: Re: The Dangers of Web Annotation  
> (cc-ing Dan explicitly, to draw his attention:-)  
> I wonder whether it is still possible to set up a panel on this issue at I Annotate. We do not have the program finalized yet, so a slot for this would be great.  
> The only problem is: who would moderate and, even more importantly, who could/would participate on a panel like that?  
> Ivan  
>> On 30 Mar 2016, at 10:50, Doug Schepers <> wrote:  
>> 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 situation.  
>> 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.  
>> Thoughts?  
>> [1]  
>> [2]  
>> [3]  
>> s  
>> -writers/ [4]  
>> e  
>> nius-picks-up-again-where-failures-left-off-d640719a82ab#.exsmdb2l1  
>> [5]  
>> [6]  
>> [7]  
>> [8]  
>> [9]  
>> [10]  
>> [11]  
>> Regards–  
>> Doug  
> ----  
> Ivan Herman, W3C  
> Digital Publishing Lead  
> Home:  
> mobile: +31-641044153  

+1 650 274 7647 cell

Received on Wednesday, 30 March 2016 16:25:49 UTC