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What Is Information Pollution?

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  • Written By: Melissa Barrett
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2016
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Information pollution is a phrase used to describe the flood of data into the human consciousness every day. This flux of information is usually unsolicited and ultimately distracting. Frequently, these assaults on the senses are discussed in the context of Internet usability, but they exist in other forms of media as well.

Often, the most dreaded of all forms of information pollution is spam. This nuisance, aptly named from a Monty Python sketch in which the canned meat was mentioned over 70 times, was once limited in scope to e-mails. Now, that definition has been expanded to cover unwanted messages received in any digital form, including text messages and instant messages (IMs). At best, these interactions are chain letters or unsolicited advertisements that are badly disguised as vital messages. Occasionally, they can be cleverly orchestrated fraud attempts.

Even though e-mail has become more manageable with the advent of spam blockers, the average worker can be expected to spend over an hour a day sorting through electronic messages. Many times, this waste is caused by a bit of computer programming innocuously labeled as the “send to all” feature. Frequently, memos and notices that only apply to certain employees or departments are distributed this way by the author. This causes a specialized form of information pollution in which employees must read every e-mail or risk missing information that might be vital to them.

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In addition to e-mail messages, workers that use the Internet for research are often exposed to distracting advertisements, overwritten websites, and misleading search results. In the spring of 2011, the most widely used search engine on the Internet instigated a sweeping change in the way it ranked search results in an attempt to reduce this form of information pollution. In general, websites that relied on advertising revenue and had large numbers of pages were labeled as “content farms.” The positions of these sites in search engine results subsequently declined. The largest observable impact of this change has been a rise in the search rankings of smaller, overwritten websites with equally misleading search results and distracting advertisements.

Information overload can be further attributed to exceedingly in-depth news reporting. In the past, news broadcasts were limited to a half an hour in the evening or a minute or two between songs on the radio. These time constraints forced reporters to give only the most important facts of an event. Today, several television networks work to broadcast stories around the clock. Often, this produces information pollution by providing a level of detail that the average person does not need and may have difficulty processing.

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Logicfest
Post 2

@Melonlity -- There are a few tricks you can use to cut down on spam but you might not like them all that much.

Here's the thing. If you are getting hit with a bunch of spam, the chances are good your email is on lists of junk mailers all over the place. The first thing to do, then, might be to simply start a new email address and have everything sent to it.

Once you have your new address, don't let that thing hit the Internet at all. Don't give it out at on the Internet and take some measures to code your email address in such a way that spiders (those things that prowl around the Internet

looking for things) can't get it by coding it so it appears invisible to them. Ask your IT guy to help you with that. There are some simple tricks you can use.

That's not an ideal method, but it works. Getting a fresh email address and protecting it might be the easiest way to deal with your problem.

Melonlity
Post 1

Spam has almost rendered email at my office useless. Once you dig out from under all the junk, it is possible to find some useful emails hidden here and there. That means a lot of emails simply get lost. If one out of every 20 is something actually useful, then that means it is hard to dig out that one gem amongst all the garbage when deadlines loom and I have things to do other than sorting through my inbox.

Spam filter help, but a lot of garbage still gets through. I wish there were some truly effective ways to stop Spam from hitting my inbox once and for all.

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