The ethics of digital: round up #2

August 18, 2014

So are Facebook and Google publishers?

They’ve always said they’re not.

But when so much of people’s information is being curated and served up by them don’t they become something as near as makes no difference to a publisher?

And if Google and Facebook control so much of the information the public sees, then do they have any obligations to the public as well as to their advertisers?

For example, if there is a very important News event happening somewhere in the world, and their algorithms down play it in their users feeds and search results, isn’t that like a newspaper relegating a front page story to page 24?

Some thoughts from other people:

Zeynep Tufekci  on Medium: “Algorithms have consequences”        

David Holmes on Pando: “If Twitter implements a Facebook style algorithm you may not hear about the next Ferguson”

According to Aarti Shahani in this article for NPR Google does have a newsroom: “In Google Newsroom, Brazil Defeat Is Not A Headline”;

If you do a Google search on the World Cup game in which Germany slaughtered Brazil 7-1, the top results will say things like “destroy,” “defeat,” and “humiliate.”

But Google itself is choosing to steer clear of negative terms. The company has created an experimental newsroom in San Francisco to monitor the World Cup, and turn popular search results into viral content. And they’ve got a clear editorial bias…

…I ask the team why they wouldn’t use a negative headline. Many headlines are negative.

“We’re also quite keen not to rub salt into the wounds,” producer Sam Clohesy says, “and a negative story about Brazil won’t necessarily get a lot of traction in social.”

Mobile marketing expert Rakesh Agrawal, CEO of reDesign mobile, says that’s just generally true. “People on social networks like Twitter and Facebook — they generally tend to share happy thoughts. If my son had an A in math today, I’m going to share that. But if my son got an F in math, that’s generally not something you’re going to see on social media.”

In old-school newsrooms, the saying goes: if it bleeds, it leads. Because this new newsroom is focused on getting content onto everyone’s smartphone, Agrawal says, editors may have another bias: to comb through the big data in search of happy thoughts.”

Reddit has asked its users to “adhere to the same standards of behaviour online that you follow in real life”.

Although there does seem to be a problem if, as in real life, you try and fast forward through the boring adverts on your catch up TV:

Until an administrator changed the advice in response to questions from the Guardian, however, one rule also encouraged users to “link to the direct version of a media file when the page it was found on doesn’t add any value.”

That practice, known as “hotlinking”, is a common complaint of artists whose work regularly appears on Reddit, since it can send thousands of users to their site without a single one seeing an image credit or advertisement. The rule now only encourages hotlinking “if the page it was found on isn’t the creator’s and doesn’t add additional information or context”.

P.S. Google are looking for public comment and evidence about the right to be forgotten…

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