Trouble Brewing over Google News Transparency

Story Text:

Google News, fresh from being sued by the French press and subsequently backing down and pulling the AFP's stories, is right back in at the deep end. This time, the question of transparency comes up in relation to it's non-disclosed news sources and nazi websites being featured on the Search engine's algorithmic news portal.

Yesterday, popular political blog instapundit's Glenn Reynolds kicked off a storm by pointing out that a "white pride nazi website", Vanguard, is being shown as a Google news source:

GOOGLE NEWS' JOURNALISTIC STANDARDS: Nazis welcome, mainstream bloggers not.

This was quickly followed up by Jeff Jarvis who demanded immediate transparency from Google on the issues surrounding the ever contraversial news site:


Google: Release a complete list of your news sources now. And institute a means for questioning those choices and for suggesting other choices now.

Google: It's bad enough that you won't share information about ad revenue sharing. But not to share information about your means of selecting news sources is inexecusable... in this case, evil.

who in turn was followed by Philipp Lenssen at Blogoscoped who has posted screeshots and is pointing out what Google have to say on their service:

“Google News is a highly unusual news service in that our results are compiled solely by computer algorithms, without human intervention. As a result, news sources are selected without regard to political viewpoint or ideology, enabling you to see how different news organizations are reporting the same story. This variety of perspectives and approaches is unique among online news sites, and we consider it essential in helping you stay informed about the issues that matter most to you.”

Philipp hits the nail on the head though when he quite rightly states that Google do indeed have editorial control, they choose the sites that appear in Google News - In other words, someone looked at a neo-nazi white pride hate site and said "oh my, that just has to be in G news...."

Do i need to state where i stand on this? heh.. prolly not eh? Im going to anyway though..

This is all part of a much larger problem with Google's overall communications strategy, or the lack thereof. It's the same problem that has an ugly, and barely checked vein of tension and animosity toward the Search giant running through the blogosphere and webmastering/publishing fora over Autolink.

The need to fix this stuff FAST.

Transparency has become somewhat of a blogger buzzword of late, and many jump at the chance to say it at every turn. We've seen it used in the silliest of ways and for that, and the fact that some folks out there seem literally slavering at the mouth to jump on anything even remotely resembling a bandwagon the blogosphere often resembles a chimpanzees tea party more than anything else. However, if there was a good time to throw that overused word into the fray then it's now: Google, you need to do something, you are making enemies at every turn...

How does talking to your users sound? Ya know, that'd actually do it, simple eh?


I thought the selection was politically motivated -

But, the Nazi thing is just plain stupid. Over the month or so several conservative blogs (Littlegreenfootballs for one) have been pointing out the fact that they are not in Google news while some really trashy blogs rise to the top of Googles service.

The need to fix this stuff FAST

Yep. When complete non-techies are wondering what is broken the bloom has come off the rose.

picks up on this now...

Google News, Opinion and Blog Feed

Beyond the stupidity, if after three years of beta they can't define it, just rename for what it is and be done with it.

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