With its high fashion look and Flock of Seagulls inspired doo, Yahoo’s latest logo certainly makes an impression. Does it have legs, or is it just too much Marissa Mayer? Few would deny the Yahoo CEO has left her mark on the company, but biggr isn’t always bettr. More acquisitions (e.g. Tumblr) might mean more ethical problems for Yahoo.
The new logo is an assemblage of parts from Mayer’s now famous “Blue Narcissus” pic in Vogue. As such, it serves as a proxy for exploring both feminist and legal issues.
The logo does to Mayer what the fashion and advertising industries have long done to women: separate the body from the person, and use the body to sell a product, company, or concept. Nor is the body left whole, but rather sliced into its component parts.
Like a fashion mag feature on “Legs, Legs, Legs!”, the new Yahoo logo takes a walk on the wild side, perhaps stealing a chapter from pork butchery by using everything but the squeal. The assembled parts come to resemble some sort of flying machine, but can the new Yahoo really fly, or has it just grown too darned big? When we look at the new Yahoo, do we see an integrated entity or a collection of heels? Will the company be tripped up by mindless growth?
As discussed here, Yahoo’s Terms of Service are decidedly two-faced — another reason to like the new logo design. Being an aggregation of parts, the logo befits a company that aggregates content from different sources and delivers finished web pages to end users. One of the persistent legal and ethical questions concerning content aggregators is, at what point do they become publishers (or at least co-publishers or distributors) of the material they aggregate?
This question becomes highly relevant in the context of cyberharassment. For example, suppose one of the neo-Nazi groups that Yahoo harbors (see The New York Times here) posts an extremely threatening racist or anti-Semitic message — something you’d expect to see scrawled in a toilet stall. On its own, this message would not receive wide distribution. However, Yahoo brings the technical means (its servers and media network) and the financial backing (its sales of advertising)) to distribute the message to (potentially) 38 million visitors every day.
The author of the hate message is anonymous or pseudonymous, but Yahoo adds its company name and logo and aggregates the message with other content. Common sense tells us that by providing the technical means, the financial backing, and the brand recognition, Yahoo is playing a major role in distributing the message — perhaps even having a transformational effect on how it’s construed. As I’ve argued elsewhere, the aggregation and branding of hate messages alongside news & infotainment results in the mainstreaming of hate.
The Internet’s a funny ol’ place where things that would seem to be illegal on their face aren’t, as long as everybody puts paper bags over their heads and pretends not to know each other, not be involved in a collaborative process of publishing a web page. Many technocrats seem to think that as long as you can break up a large-scale process into a series of smaller components, you can obfuscate responsibility. This doesn’t work in terrorism, so why should it work in Internet publishing?
In a terrorist bomb plot, different people might bring different ingredients, and another person might mix them all together and deploy the final product. That’s what’s known as a conspiracy, and implies some culpability on the part of each actor. Yet, Yahoo’s arrangement with neo-Nazis and other questionable groups is: Hey guys! You bring the hate and we’ll bring the technology, branding and advertising, and together we’ll make a web page! But since you’re anonymous, and we’re technically not considered to be the “speaker” of the information, nobody can be held responsible.
But perhaps more important than any of these legal or moral issues is one crucial question: Does Henry Blodget like the logo redesign? Can it be used to artificially inflate the price of Yahoo stock, then short it before the bubble bursts? If so, then all’s right with the world.
New Yahoo logo by hoogie of the Photoshop Battles subreddit based on original in Vogue magazine.