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Karma – the website that reviews you!

By Steven Bailey - 7 May 2015 32

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.53.05 pm

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely game and in the case of these young Canberran gents, it can be controversial too. Monish Parajuli and brothers Dayne Rathbone and Clyde Rathbone (pictured above) are in the latter stages of developing a website which’s primary function is to publically evaluate human beings.

As I sat to chew the fat with the three business partners I couldn’t help but think that Orwell was somehow, somewhere, listening…

Karma aims to give honest reviews about people; not reviews about products or plays or food, but people.

After satisfying a rigorous process to verify one’s identity, a person can log on to read and write appraisals on other human beings. Once an appraisal is published on the site it too can be appraised with comments and a tick to indicate the reader’s approval or disapproval – a digital democracy perhaps.

Obviously such an endeavour gives rise to numerous political, social, legal, and ethical questions.

From a legal perspective, Karma is a tinderbox of defamation cases. Generally speaking, defamation laws protect your reputation by disallowing false information about you to be published. If a publisher is asked to remove potentially damaging material, and it refuses to do so, the publisher may then become liable for any damage caused. As a result, Karma will remove any published material if it is so requested… but, the catch is that it will publicise details of the fact that you have requested that the material be removed. By no means is this strategy a full proof firewall against legal cases but, it’s a start.

The development of the website is as much the result of a shared world view as it is a determination to succeed in the online market. Karma’s mission is stated on the home page of the website: “Our mission is to help create a more informed, accountable, and honest world.”

But is creating a forum where people can write whatever they like about another person ethical or not?

Comedian and generally clever guy Dayne Rathbone says that “transparent societies are more likely to behave ethically, and we should all be working together to celebrate the good in the world whilst protecting each other from potentially harmful experiences.”

But is it as ethical to apply the same notion of transparency to institutions, authorities, and companies as we would to an individual citizen? For instance, it is certainly of public importance that we know how much influence Rupert Murdoch or Gina Rinehart has over Australian Governments, but is it as important that we know the sexual preferences, or medications, of a school teacher or police officer?

The business partners contend that Karma is unique when compared to other similar websites such as LinkedIn or Facebook.

Because the website places an exclusive focus on an individual’s personhood through the eyes of others, it attempts to operate as a deterrent to anonymity – where it is quite easy to create a fake Facebook, Gmail, or LinkedIn account and troll with gay abandon.

Former Wallabies and ACT Brumbies player Clyde Rathbone contends that although one’s first impression may be to the contrary, it would be unwise to lie, make false accusations, or to bully people through Karma. His reasoning is that those who post “slander” and “junk comments” will be realised and appraised accordingly.

“Any review site that wants to maintain a high level of authenticity needs to live up to those ideals, and that’s what Karma does more than many other websites,” he says.

“Heaps of websites are already doing what we are proposing, they’re just not doing it very well.”

On that point, I agree with him.

Where existing websites allow users to create their own profiles or identities, Karma’s function relies on the premise that the collective interpretations of a person’s identity will be a more accurate reflection of who a person really is – and therefor, more ethical.

Monish Parajuli, and Dayne and Clyde Rathbone are certainly an intelligent and driven team. Regardless of whether or not this idea frightens the hell out of you, if their only goal was to inspire people to think then they are instant success stories.

The success of Karma will depend on the team’s ability to assuage people’s fears while maintaining people’s interest. Remember, we will be judging you. 😉

What’s Your opinion?


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32 Responses to
Karma – the website that reviews you!
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Masquara 8:51 pm 01 Jul 15

Anyone know what is happening with this train wreck?

Masquara 2:24 pm 16 May 15

ABC Radio National’s tech show “Download This Show” have just slammed Karma. “Worst startup ever reviewed” – “Bullying site” – “Why did they choose their own employee as a case study? Reflects on them!” Fifteen minutes and not one word in favour. If these reviewers – who are usually in favour of internet freedom & transparency – hate the site, the Rathbones might as well just shut up shop now. They also had words to say about the look & feel – confusing, and no guidance as to how to get libellous material taken down. Oh, and “misleading soft typography when the topic is so nasty” … Worth listening to the podcast: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/downloadthisshow/dts16052015/6469686

zllauh 11:17 am 14 May 15

lol. what time has come ! Now even KARMA is getting technologised :p

Masquara 11:04 pm 11 May 15

Bwa ha ha ha ha Karma is too scared to have a ratings facility on its own Facebook page!

Garfield 9:16 pm 11 May 15

vintage123 said :

Well i just clicked on the karma website and scrolled down to the bottom of the page to see a review from Clyde on Artem, one of his former employees……………..and i can tell you now, if i was Artem, I would be very very unhappy.
The whole site is just tit for tat.

Yes, fully agree. I just looked at it and there’s a possible lawsuit already waiting to happen. Artem could well have been mentally ill and too embarrassed to explain himself, while now having it under control or otherwise resolved. Now that it’s in the public domain he’s possibly been defamed. It’s been a long time since I looked at this sort of law, but I believe a defamation defence relies on two limbs, firstly that its true and secondly that its in the public interest that it be made public. I think that lawyers will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of lots of work thanks to this site.

vintage123 10:05 am 11 May 15

dungfungus said :

vintage123 said :

If anyone writes anything negative about me and the moderators let it through, truth or not, i would file an immediate defamation case on both the site administrators and the individuals and let the courts decide where the truth lies.

Are you aware how much that would cost?

Yes.

vintage123 6:11 pm 10 May 15

Well i just clicked on the karma website and scrolled down to the bottom of the page to see a review from Clyde on Artem, one of his former employees……………..and i can tell you now, if i was Artem, I would be very very unhappy.
The whole site is just tit for tat.

dungfungus 4:29 pm 10 May 15

vintage123 said :

If anyone writes anything negative about me and the moderators let it through, truth or not, i would file an immediate defamation case on both the site administrators and the individuals and let the courts decide where the truth lies.

Are you aware how much that would cost?

fabforty 10:58 am 10 May 15

Worst. Idea. Ever.

I truly could not get far enough away from this.

John Moulis 7:11 pm 09 May 15

dungfungus said :

HenryBG said :

dungfungus said :

It would be good if they could turn the clock back 20 years and review Rolf Harris.

Excellent idea.

In fact, instead of trying to attract “reviews” of dubious worth, wouldn’t it be easier to collect all Australian court reports and enter them on a searchable database?

Volunteers (similar to the people who do so much amazing work on Trove) could then spend their time finding pictures from Facebook to link to the alphabetised list of people who have appeared in court reports.

I say this because once upon a time I learned an acquaintance of mine was about to take on a new employee – he had no idea until I pointed it out to him that this prospective employee had recently used sleazy lawyer tricks to successfully dodge being convicted of selling smack to an undercover cop. I helped him dodge a bullet there.

In the early days of the internet one could access all Australian (and a few overseas) court reports including Family Law stuff.
I think the Privacy Police intervened much to the disappointment of law students and general voyeurs.
Most employers would use the internet to check out prospective employees (and review current ones) these days.

That’s nothing. Until the privacy laws you could go to any post office and purchase an electoral roll which contained the full names, addresses and occupation of every person on the electoral roll. Nowadays access to the electoral roll is tightly controlled. You cannot buy one, you must go to the AEC office and even then it only contains the name and address of voters with many not even listed (called silent enrolment). The National Library has electoral rolls on microfiche but the most recent is 2007.

Masquara 5:47 pm 09 May 15

This is an absolute shocker. How are they going to differentiate the thousands of “John Wilsons” and “Elizabeth Patersons” and “James Scotts”? Specify their addresses? Work histories? What if someone commenting THINKS they have the right Charlie Smith, but don’t? How are these geniuses going to supervise the inevitable flood of mistakes? And how are they going to identify the posted “opinions” of random trolls? Are they planning to charge money to take down information that citizens don’t want to see up there about themselves? To put it plainly – is this planned extortion?

centre 5:50 pm 08 May 15

Sigh.

It looks like the answer to my question is yes. From the SMH -> “She also said users of the site’s ability to rate people who had not chosen to be on the site was worrying.”

Your proposed side will be a haven for covert aggressives and group bullies to inflict abuse on others.

The blood of many suicides will be on your hands with this.

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