Google News feeds politics and free speech



One of the topics I plan to steer clear of most of the time here is politics. I don’t want this site (essentially for my business), to be engulfed with national political, conservative, liberal, etc… debates. It doesn’t fit with the structure I have in mind. However, at the intersection of political debate and technology there is room to touch on the topic. I’ve found an article which brings Google News into this mix.


In a Frontpage magazine article, they report that Google News will soon include articles from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Frontpagemag (a conservative site run by David Horowitz), describes ISM as “an affiliate of the anarchist/communist wing of the PLO”.(Palestenian Liberation Organization). ISM claims to be a neutral peace group.

Now, if we were in a situation where there was one company controlling content and news aggregation for the vast majority of net viewers, the key question would be what critiria that organization uses to choose who is “worthy” of being included in their news feeds. But, we live in an age of alternative media. Where a news story can break and be picked apart in a thousand blogs before bedtime. Truth usually get’s winnowed out from reports that aren’t quite truthful. In some cases the truth is distorted a bit more along the way, but ultimately “peer review” helps to improve the accuracy of reporting.

This is exactly what concerns me of one company controlling the internet, (Ballmer saying MSN will win the war of the internet.) If one company alone controlled the majority of search, news aggregation, etc… What if by their whim they decided a certain news network was not a legitimate news network, but a propagandist group and banned them from news feeds, ads and search results. Or maybe a newspaper would be a target for bad reviews of a Microsoft product? Constitutional complaints of infringing on free speech would not apply, that is only applicable to Government restrictions on free speech. Businesses can choose to do what they like.

Newspapers used to have a custom of identifying the political leanings of their editorial board. That is something that I wish sometimes would come back into vogue, but it is ultimately up to the reader to decide. These days news is reported from enough sources that we have no excuses for relying on just one outlet for our information about the world around us. As long as we have the choice of “voting with our feet” or our eyes as the case may be, we can decide where the biases lay.

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