Google News - Time to take some Responsibility?

Thread Title:
Google News' chief robot speaks out
Thread Description:

The Register's Andrew Orlowski's anti-google views are well known, most folks in Search take his comments with that fact in mind. This piece, thredlinked above, is however both very funny and, i think, important.

Is Google News' chief scientist, Krishna Bharat, actually a robot? From an interview in the current issue of Wired magazine, it's increasingly difficult to conclude that Bharat could convincingly pass the Turing Test. Every time Google News is criticized for bias, Bharat is wheeled to field out an identical reply. He claims that humans can't be held responsible for what appears on his website - because machines are in charge.

"The truth is, Google News doesn't have a point of view," he tells the magazine. "It's a computer, and computers do not understand these topics the way humans do and can't be systematically biased in any direction."

So human or algorithm? We're leaning towards the latter. What the Bharatbot doesn't seem to have been programmed with is the experience of ever having being someone who reads the news himself: and experience is often the vital difference between bot and machine.

Does Orlowski have a valid point in that G news should take some responsibility for their content?

I think he does, feel free to disagree...


I Agree

I agree Google should take at least a little responsibility, they can't just say it's nothing to do with us and blame it on the algo's.

If there is no human intervention...

... then why did the story about Bush being arrested suddenly and rapidly disappear from the service? Also, why did disappear after being criticised as being vindictive and non-authoritative?

After all, if the algo is in sole charge and it felt that the story about Bush was appropriate, and that the msmobiles site was fair, then why not let them stand?

Worse than denying responsability, Google simply look like a bunch of bare-faced liars. There is clearly human involvement, because it is a human editor which decides on worthy news sources and edits any story that they deem incorrect or inappropriate.

Turing Test

it's increasingly difficult to conclude that Bharat could convincingly pass the Turing Test

Whilst I thought that the Turing Test had in the past proved conclusively that the Plex was manned by robots, I have to agree with encyclo

Worse than denying responsability, Google simply look like a bunch of bare-faced liars. There is clearly human involvement, because it is a human editor which decides on worthy news sources and edits any story that they deem incorrect or inappropriate.

I think it was Stalin who said "its not the votes that matter, its the people who count the votes that matter".

Same at Google, its not the news itself, its the selection of the items that counts. Bit like that old British TV programme "Drop the Dead Donkey", someone decides whether to run the dead donkey or not. They cannot put it all down to the algo.

The excuse that one was "following orders" is not recognised by the Geneva Convention. At the end of the day someone has to take responsibility for what is put out. Heaven help us "Google News alone consistently ranks as the fifth most popular site in the United States"

>its the people who count the

>its the people who count the votes that matter

or the people who rig the machines that count the votes :)

they need to define news first

If Google News reported from only genuine news sources then they wouldn't have any excuse to censor. While they accept 'news' feeds from minority promotional groups they have to to cut the extreme stuff.

I'd quite like Google News (from Reuters, CNN etc) - guaranteed unbiased by Google, and Google News Plus which has all the little feeds but they admit is filtered - if they want to get political with that frankly I'm not sure I care.

A guy claiming to be a journalist just started a thread at SG about this (sorry to linkdrop Nick but it seems appropriate since I just flicked back and saw it )


are fine Gurtie - general rule of thumb: If it's highly relevant, it's cool. If it insults my intelligence, it's not :)

If he is a reporter he's some months behind the curve so whatever, lets move on...


Battelle ran this piece recently: Baharat on G News Bias, Dave Winer's comment was this:

Perhaps. Human beings who work for Google decide which sites are included in Google News. It's not the bias of the people who wrote the software that drives GN as much as the bias of the sites they consider important. The search engine doesn't need human help to figure out which sites are authoritative, why does GN? In any case their claim that GN is solely algorithmic is simply not true.

Dave has been known to be more than a little critical of G news, but fwiw, i agree more often than not..

Bottom Line

The bottom line is, if it appears on the Google News site, they are responsible. News is a public service and a public trust, - people go to the site and expect that the sources are duly vetted. If they are not then Google should take down the word "News" from the title. It seems to me that Google wants to bask in the glow of the Fourth Estate without being obligated in exercising the responsibilities of that group. That does not fly with me.

Pretty low

I didn't think Orlowski would do personal attacks like that. It harms his credibility and just makes me take him less seriously than I did before. Krishna is one of the best people I've ever met. I'm proud to know him. Yet somehow, I'm not surprised at Orlowski. :)


Orlowski is certainly abrasive at the best of times, and he certainly attacked Krishna Bharat with some force. It severely diminished the value of the article, but behind the venom, there is still a problem which needs to be better addressed.

The presence of a certain bias, whether intentional or not, cannot be plausibly denied. If the news sources are chosen by human intervention, then there is forcibly a directive line as to what is acceptable or not: and that policy has an influence on the news stories which are presented.

Secondly, as I stated, there are clearly occasional human interventions when it comes to news coverage, even if very occasionally (ie. for the Bush arrest stunt). There are surely internal guidelines there, too, so that again constitutes another level of intervention.

It's not all down to the algo, and it probably never could be: and there's no shame or problem in that (Google were certainly right in removing the Bush story). Claiming otherwise simply causes damage to the reputation of Google News and its creative team, all for no valid reason.

images that link to another source

I find the images on google-news perplexing. The other day a Brazilian soccer player died of a heartattack after scoring the winning goal. An article I was reading suggested that his collision with the goalie might have been the cause, so I went out on google-news to see if I could find a source with images that might help shed some light on the matter, Every image I found, and clicked on, lead to a source that did not have images. This was frustrating for me as a reader, wonder how the source that publishes the image feels when it ends up on google-news linking to another source!

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