What happens when machines edit our news? What happens when news sources game Google News to raise their ranking? Online Journalism Review is asking that question, and has some interesting answers to report.
It seems conservatives and conservative-biased news or quasi-news organizations use people’s full names, while mainstream sources and those with a liberal bent often use only the last name. The result: Google Newsing for “John Kerry” results in some incredibly negative stories, but “George Bush” is largely positive. Meanwhile, “Kerry” and “Bush” results are more neutral. (While the politics at MaisonBisson are rather centrist/middle of the road/moderate/easy going, it is editorial policy to use last names only…usually.)
It’s no secret that the web is both a great machine of democracy and a great trumpet for conservative slander. It’s just sad to see Google present it that way.
ArsTechnica fed me the story, and I like Hannibal’s conclusion:
Ultimately, my own opinion is that Google News is a pretty bad source for news, but that doesn’t stop me from using it. Google News is good at creating the impression that the user has their finger on the pulse of the entire online media scene. With all the information, links, and images, you feel like you’re peering into “cyberspace” and grazing on “information.” In that respect, Google News can be addictive. I hope that Google gets serious about improving its service by hiring a real news staff to help refine its algorithms and even add some direct editorial control.