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Living Can Kill You

News.com does TrackBack

For the uninitiated, TrackBacks and pingbacks are MovableType-popularized technology that lets one site know another is linking to its content. The TrackBacks appear as an excerpt of the what the linking site says about the other’s content. Like commenting, TrackBacks provide quick feedback on a particular post and allows for an ongoing, open dialog. Until now, blogs have made the most use of it, but now News.com is doing it and I must admit, I admire their moxyie.

As MovableType itself found out, TrackBacks can create scenarios where a site is hosting criticism of itself. This could be beneficial to show the company is open to criticism and willing to offer a consumer report type service; for news organizations that pride themselves on accurate reporting it could take the concept of “balanced journalism” too far.

Imagine a letters-to-the-editor page without any pre-sorting, editing, or moderation. From a legal standpoint, although the site doesn’t have any control over the content, it is hosting it, and could be libel. Although I doubt any mainstream news organizations will be following News.com’s lead anytime soon, it is a development the industry will be watching.