This isn’t the first time Google’s been criticized for its possible role in promoting content and it won’t be the last. Recently the company made reference to the fact it has considered ranking news according to what is most important—which sounds rather subjective if you ask us.
According to the New York Times, at a recent conference the question was posed of what type of content trumps less worthy pieces. Legendary broadcast journalist Ted Koppel said it “wouldn’t be a bad idea” if Google were to tweak its algorithm to promote topics people should be reading.
Addressing the topic, CEO Larry Page agreed the company wonders the same thing—whether Google should focus on delivering what’s more important rather than what’s most popular. “I see this as a responsibility to some extent, trying to improve media. If you ask anyone about how that information’s going to be propagated, what you’re going to focus on, I think it could work a lot better than it does now.”
“We as an Internet community, we have a responsibility to make those things work a lot better and get people focused on what are the real issues, what should you be thinking about. And I think we as a whole are not doing a good job of all that,” Page went on to say.
Google has been scrutinized and accused of cooking search results, so saying it has considered promoting what it considers important news content seems downright dangerous. It’s true that Internet media has become overwhelming and inundating with sources, and we’ll admit there can be difficulty in deducing which of those are your best choices. But Google is hardly the one to make this decision.
The company’s Panda update, an effort to cut down on content farms that pull content from the original source, has been controversial to say that least. And possibly ineffective: In many cases, scraper sites continue to rank above the sites they are actually taking the content from.
Then there’s the fact Google won’t tell us exactly what it takes into account when creating its algorithm. What effect does the +1 button have, Google’s Author page, or Twitter retweets? Google can’t explain how it ranks pages nor should it. Publications would exploit that information—they would be stupid not to. But that means Google becomes the very thing it’s defending itself against being: A gatekeeper.
There might be more information out there (there’s no might about it actually), but people are also becoming increasingly tech-savvy and many of us getting our news from the Internet know how to use filters and the like. We’re already at Google’s mercy enough as it is.