Google Blogoscoped

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New Cases of Google News Source Exclusion

According to Noel Sheppard of NewsBusters and other sources, Google removed a couple of anti-Islamic sites from Google News due to alleged hate speech. The New Media Journal, one of the removed sources (others were and Jawa Report), in reaction created an “Anti-Google Search Engine Index” listing such sites as Gigablast, AltaVista, ASK, MSN or Yahoo “who do not manipulate content based on the ideology of political correctness” (I’m not sure they heard of Yahoo and MSN’s involvement in China).

Google web search exclusion vs Google News exclusion

Now, I think we need to make an important distinction between manual removals in Google web search (like Nazi sites in Germany, or human rights sites in China) and manual removal of results in Google News. The distinction is that Google web search is (was) a self-proclaimed mirror of the web, whereas Google News always had been a hand-picked selection of news sites deemed “worthy” by whatever standards Google employs. It’s implicitly understood that Google made a selection of around 4,500 sources, even though Google has a somewhat misleading explanation saying that “news sources are selected without regard to political viewpoint or ideology” (Google excludes the ideology of hate, for instance), and another somewhat misleading explanation saying the “selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program” (the stories were determined automatically from a manually determined set of news sources).

However, Google News is moderated and as such, I think, Google doesn’t have the moral obligation to include every available source, which in turn means they do have the moral right to exclude certain sources. Now it’s a very different issue whether or not we agree with this specific set of exclusions. Google promises their news service enables you “to see how different organizations are reporting the same story,” so they apparently try to strike a balance here. For example, when Google hesitated to include certain gov’t-critical news sources in Google News China, I’d argue their balance was skewed to one side (gov’t-friendly news sources). When Google News makes it their rule to exclude hate speech, left or right, gov’t-friendly or unfriendly, then they can still theoretically keep a balance (even though it’s unfortunate that Google doesn’t seem to make the “hate speech” rule visible on their news site).

Articles Google News objected to

But did Google strike the right balance in the current series of exclusions? According to NewsBusters, Google deemed the following three articles at the New Media Journal to be “hate content” (I’m not picking representative sentences, but those possibly illustrating “hate content”):

Another article from excluded news MichNews which Google objected to has the drastic “America should deport all Muslims and invite no Muslims into the country.” It seems that if Google moderates their News selection based on exclusion of hate content – NewsBusters quotes them to have said “We do not allow articles and sources expressly promoting hate speech viewpoints in Google News (although referencing hate speech for commentary and analysis is acceptable)” – then they have a solid case here.

The question then is – do you think Google News should remove hate speech, and if so, do you think they are completely balanced in removal of hate speech across the spectrum?


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