NY Times vs Google

The Times recently opined that Google should be regulated because it has so much clout as the #1 search engine in the world.

When Google was a pure search engine, it was easy to appear agnostic about search results, with no reason to play favorites with one Web site or another. But as Google has branched out into online services from maps and videos to comparison shopping, it has acquired pecuniary incentives to favor its own over rivals.
Google argues that its behavior is kept in check by competitors like Yahoo or Bing. But Google has become the default search engine for many Internet users. Competitors are a click away, but a case is building for some sort of oversight of the gatekeeper of the Internet.

The blog searchengineland fires back:

The New York Times is the number one newspaper web site. Analysts reckon it ranks first in reach among US opinion leaders. When the New York Times editorial staff tweaks its supersecret algorithm behind what to cover and exactly how to cover a story — as it does hundreds of times a day — it can break a business that is pushed down in coverage or not covered at all.
When the New York Times was a pure newspaper, it was easy to appear agnostic about its editorial coverage, with no reason to play favorites with one business or another. But as the New York Times has branched out, making investments in external companies, it has acquired pecuniary [that means financial, by the way] incentives to favor those over rivals.

Oh, dear, what are we to do in the Information Age?
Every site doubtless has hidden deals and interests with other companies. Not like the good old days of newspapers delivered to your door and three or four channels on your TV . . . :slight_smile:

… Not like the good old days of newspapers delivered to your door and three or four channels on your TV . . . :slight_smile:


That reminds me of something I read, where the writer pointed out that in those days, everyone more or less got the same world news. Oh, the stations might differ on some points, but none of them could afford to be completely wrong about things, lest it stand out starkly against the other stations. Of course, I’m sure it was possible for every station to be wrong also…then who’s the wiser?

Nowadays, people don’t even receive the same news, as it’s pressed through all sorts of filters and dyes until we get the “News according to Fox” or the "News according to “MSNBC”.

All to say that they’ll only tell us what they want to say, which is fine in its own sort of way as the only one’s that listen are those inclined to in the first place.

Google doesn’t need any oversight (well, I mean, if they’re doing unscrupulous and illegal things, they most certainly do). If people begin to notice that what Google offers them is too Google & Partners centered, they’ll go somewhere else. Plain and simple.

I’m not sure how firmly the New York Times backs the idea of Google being regulated. The editorial seems to be a trial balloon, sent up to see what happens. Although the editorial does mention that a government commission might be one way to curb possible (and I would point out, unproven) monopolistic abuses, the editorial immediately says:

[quote=New York Times]Google provides an incredibly valuable service, and the government must be careful not to stifle its ability to innovate. Forcing it to publish the algorithm or the method it uses to evaluate it would allow every Web site to game the rules in order to climb up the rankings — destroying its value as a search engine. Requiring each algorithm tweak to be approved by regulators could drastically slow down its improvements. Forbidding Google to favor its own services — such as when it offers a Google Map to queries about addresses — might reduce the value of its searches.

I would also point out that forcing Google to reveal information about its algorithm would give competitors an unfair advantage.

I dunno…I am surprised by this editorial, which seems to be hand-wringing about a theoretical possibility, without any indication that the problem actually exists. Its as if the NYT posted an op-ed piece about the city being destroyed by a tsunami.

While not in favor of much regulation in general and regulation of the news media in particular, I am amused at the notion of making an exception for the NYT.

Perhaps a special government watch list for papers (NYT) who are guilty of an on-going pattern of hate speech toward others (e.g. the Catholic Church). An interesting fantasy…

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