Google CEO: An Automated Fairness Doctrine?

April 12, 2010

Did Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt just say in public to the American Society of News Editors:

  • he wants to be challenged through technology that directs readers to a story with an opposing viewper Politico?

It sounds a lot like Mr. Schmidt envisions a Google with some automated technology that “challenges” readers with an automated process that “directs readers to a story with an opposing view?”

  • How would such automated “fairness” technology work?
  • Would Google take advantage of its ability to track most whatever one reads and views online (and for how long) via tracking technology at Google News, Google Books, YouTube, Google Analytics, DoubleClick ad-serving, etc. to know exactly when one was done reading and automatically present one with the opposing view? Or for long pieces might opposing views need to be inserted by Google mid-read or mid-viewing to be fair?
  • Would Google let one immediately click away from reading/viewing this opposing view or “direct” one to read/view it as much as one read/viewed the original piece?
  • Would Google use its dossier of private information from one’s private search and surfing habits to know what would be the personalized best and most persuasive “opposing view” to the article that the user selected on their own?
  • How would such a Google political-opposite matching algorithm be programmed to ensure that the user got the correct/neutral opposing view, and would the opposing view have to be the same length and from an approved/high ranked source?
  • Would Google then know if one was someone that read opposing views when offered and would that personal information be used for any other Google personalized targeting purpose?

These questions are highly relevant because the Federal Government used to have a similar policy mandate, and it was called the “Fairness Doctrine,” where TV and radio broadcasters, if they expressed an opinion on an issue, had to air an opposing view.

  • That policy was abolished by the FCC in 1987; and it has been a highly controversial issue ever since.

The very troubling difference between the TV/radio “fairness doctrine,” and a potential automated Google fairness doctrine, is Google’s unique ability to track most all Internet users and the vast amount of private information that Google has amassed on most every Internet user.

  • If Google’s CEO believes it is important for Google to “direct readers to a story with an opposing view,” how would that be a neutral algorithm?
  • Would the bias variables of such an opposing view algorithm be transparent to ensure that Google had not programmed in its algorithms a bias to promote Google’s policy or political views like Google’s search engine has an inherent bias to direct users to Google-owned content over competitors content per Foundem’s FCC filing indicates?
 

 

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