Regulation 2Come4 Klout, Kred & Online Ratings?

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Not yet, but it is almost inevitable as both reputations and revenues increasingly become dependent on the one hand and greater transparency is sought by the online community on the other. Klout, Kred and other industry entrants do satisfy an increasing desire for advertisers, employers as well as social media participants – they provide an indication of presumed online influence. Bloggers and others who provide their services to business and not for profit institutions through social media can demand a higher fee based upon their Klout and/or Kred score. Further, even on basis of casual online interaction, it is evident that some are increasingly giving greater preference on basis of Klout and/or Kred scores in determining who they will interact with through social media. Although on one-level we may lament the decline of egalitarian attitudes online, on the other “Influence Ratings” do at least to a degree help decipher real and pretentious profiles – think of overblown bios as well as mass-purchased “followers” on Twitter. In the global online community, assessing credibility and presence becomes even more accentuated. See our Blog for Film Report - “What is Klout?” - http://diplomaticallyincorrect.org/films/blog_post/what-is-klout-by-ambassador-mo/43609

Analogy of Credit Scores & Credit Rating Agencies:

There is a perceived need, but how about the manner in which the need is addressed. Only a few decades earlier with the rise of credit, credit cards and e-money, a similar evolution was quickly underway in credit rating bureaus. Before we knew it, not only  securing a credit card but insurance and employment became dependent on one’s credit score. The evolution is still underway, but consumer protection laws evolved to encourage credit rating agencies to at least present greater transparency and even if superficially be responsive to the “credit applicant”/consumer.

We can probably expect similar pressure to develop overtime with respect to the “Influence Raters” as Klout and Kred. The latter already professes transparency, and its system actually is straightforward, with limited “secret sauce” applied to serve up an Influencer Rating.

Secret Formulas & “Black-Box”:

The greatest pressure will be on Klout both a current industry leader and as it promotes a notion of confidential algorithms and formulas for deriving a rating. It is also not evident if this is a purely mechanical/impersonal “Black-Box.” (At least on one occasion, there was an adjustment post-facto made to the Klout score for several SM participants that I follow including myself. No malicious motive or rationale can or should be inferred, but without transparency questions are likely to be raised).

Klout also has two other considerations: What subjective inferences were incorporated into its formula or “Black-Box” design for providing the Klout score? Similarly and perhaps more critically, how does Klout compare influence across social media platforms? For example, recently Klout adjusted its “Black-Box” to give greater weight to Facebook over Twitter. More fundamentally, how do you compare influence on YouTube with Twitter or WordPress?

Cross-Border, Cross-Language & Cross-Culture Implications?

Certain platforms may be more favored by some countries/languages/cultures – thus any alteration in the Black-Box formula(s) may impact more directly a whole group defined by nationality or language. Culture and notions of courtesy do affect how and frequency of interaction which may also impact Klout or Kred scores. This is one further consideration why Influencer Ratings may carry even greater impact on a global level.

“Appearance of Conflict of Interest”?

Besides the social media participants, Klout also impacts on the perceived influence of the platform itself. More than one social media participant has stated online that they would opt for more time on Facebook over Twitter as consequence of Klout readjusting its “Black-Box formula” to give greater weight to FB. We also note the increasing tendency of Klout and Kred to blur the line and position as well at least in part as social media platform by encouraging interaction on its site. This already starts to present at least the appearance of the potential conflict of interest – and this is not merely a lawyer’s invention in this instance.

Instinctive Resistance to Regulation vs. Call for Transparency/Fairness:

The online community recently was overwhelmingly united to counter SOPA-ACTA efforts at greater regulation. There is now an impulse to see any government regulation as undesirable and unwanted. Suspicion would be the least reaction. Nonetheless, there will be inevitably also a tendency to increasingly see Klout as an authority that must become more accountable to the online community. The fact that one can opt out of a Klout or Kred score may defer the moment for accountability and regulation, but the actual success of Klout and Kred becoming online standards will become the dominant consideration in a debate regarding standards and regulation that still really has to begin. Kred may be Klout’s best friend for now. If Klout had a monopoly, it would face greater scrutiny and pressure for accountability as well as transparency.

Domestic and/or International Standards?

In the business of ratings: credit scores for individuals or credit ratings for corporate/sovereign debt, the marketplace has evolved into a small but influential oligarchy. In the end, these industries became significantly regulated. In fact, after the international financial crisis of 2008, the pressure has been for even tighter controls over the bond rating agency oligarchy of Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch, and toward greater international applicatio. The industries are not entirely analogous, however, this is an evolutionary model that may come to effect Klout, Kred and other new entrants in the Influence Rating market. As the online community takes shape, virtual reality may ever more reflect real life considerations.

How and who will effect any regulation is difficult to anticipate. However, it is more likely to start as responsive to a particular perceived need and/or injustice. Further, while national authorities are the more likely initial source, the uniquely global and largely borderless nature of the Internet and social media will more than ever drive the development of fledgling international standards along with demands for accountability (There is already an "Internet freedom" Advisory body at the United Nations). I'm not certain it is all good or bad, but the debate at least will be ever more inevitable.

 

See Film for Blog - Great Animation (Kredit2 @whattheklout!) – “Klout Dumbshit!” - http://diplomaticallyincorrect.org/films/movie/klout-dumbshit/29750

 

By Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey – Follow @MuhamedSacirbey

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About the author

DiplomaticallyIncorrect

"Voice of the Global Citizen"- Diplomatically Incorrect (diplomaticallyincorrect.org) provide film and written reports on issues reflecting diplomatic discourse and the global citizen. Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey (@MuhamedSacirbey) is former Foreign Minister Ambassador of Bosnia & Herzegovina at the United Nations. "Mo" is also signatory of the Rome Conference/Treaty establishing the International…

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