Google pushes artificial intelligence for upgraded news app

May 20, 2018

For its updated news application, Google is doubling down on the use of artificial intelligence as part of an effort to weed our disinformation and help users get viewpoints beyond their own "filter bubble."

Google chief Sundar Pichai, who unveiled the updated Google News earlier this month, said the app now "surfaces the you care about from trusted sources while still giving you a full range of perspectives on events."

It marks Google's latest effort to be at the center of online news and includes a new push to help publishers get paid subscribers through the tech giant's platform.

According to product chief Trystan Upstill, the news app "uses the best of to find the best of human intelligence—the great reporting done by journalists around the globe."

While the app will enable users to get "personalized" news, it will also include top stories for all readers, aiming to break the so-called filter bubble of information designed to reinforce people's biases.

"Having a productive conversation or debate requires everyone to have access to the same information," Upstill said.

He said the "full coverage" feed would be the same for everyone—"an unpersonalized view of events from a range of trusted news sources."

Some journalism industry veterans were skeptical about the effort to replace human editors with machine curators.

"There's been a fantasy of (algorithmic) personalized news for a log time," said New York University journalism professor Meredith Broussard.

"Nobody has ever gotten it right. I think that news designers and home page editors do a good job of curating already."

Google and Facebook have also been criticized for scooping up most online ad revenues and for enabling false information to spread.

Recently, News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson called for an "algorithm review board" that would "oversee these historically influential digital platforms and ensure that there is no algorithmic abuse or censorship."

Changing news ecosystem

In the new app, Google's "newsstand" addresses some concerns by allowing users to sign up for subscriptions using their Google accounts, and will enable publishers to connect with readers directly.

Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University journalism professor, said the revamped news app appears to be positive for the news ecosystem.

"For many years, Google refused to share ad revenues with news organizations on the grounds that Google was driving traffic to them, and that it was up to those organizations to figure out how to monetize that traffic," Kennedy said.

"Now, with more than 90 percent of all new digital ad revenues going to Google and Facebook, Google is finally acknowledging that it's time to try something else."

Nicholas Diakopoulos, a Northwestern University professor specializing in computational and data journalism, said the impact of Google's changes remain to be seen.

Diakopoulos said algorithmic and personalized news can be positive for "engagement" but may only benefit a handful of news organizations.

His research found that "Google concentrates its attention on a relatively small number of publishers, it's quite concentrated."

Google's effort to identify and prioritize "trusted" may also be problematic, according to Diakopoulos.

"Maybe it's good for the big guys, or the (publishers) who have figured out how to game the algorithm," he said. "But what about the local news sites, what about the new news sites that don't have a long track record?"

Diakopoulos said that while AI can offer some advantages in news curation, "you still need people involved in many different ways. you need to reflect human values, editorial values... you can't quantify every aspect that might be important to an editorial decision."

The growing importance of the platforms raise the questions of whether Google and Facebook are "media" companies and not simply technology firms, a moniker both have resisted.

Diakopoulos said Google "is becoming more and more like a media company," although that is sometimes difficult to define.

"Yahoo started as a tech company and became a media company, and maybe Google is headed in that direction," he said.

Explore further: Google boosts efforts to help news organizations, with $300 mn

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7 comments

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Doug_Nightmare
3.7 / 5 (3) May 20, 2018
One of the things that my "filter bubble" filters for is anything that (((Sundar Pichai))) thinks is news. G00gle blew it at the beginning of Alerts with its source selection.

Good people ought to be armed as they will, with wits and guns and The Truth. The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.
zz5555
1 / 5 (1) May 20, 2018
Good people ought to be armed as they will, with wits and guns and The Truth.

It all depends on how you define "good people". Since right wing extremists are responsible for most domestic terrorism, they probably aren't "good people". So you seem to indicate we should take their guns away. Probably the same with left wing extremists. And religious extremists, like anybody who actually believes the Bible. So only moderates and people with little or no religious beliefs should own guns, by your definition. Of course, how you define extremists will allow more and more guns to be removed from the general populace.

I noticed that you capitalized "The Truth". One of the problems with the fake news issues is that people have difficulty identifying what's true or not. So someone - obviously not an extremist - needs to filter out what's not true for them. You seem to be suggesting the government for that role, since corporations are out. Is that correct?
xponen
5 / 5 (2) May 20, 2018
Google need an AI that discover quality news regardless of publisher.
snoosebaum
3 / 5 (2) May 20, 2018

how does Google get out of its own ''filter bubble '' ? these people are sick
Thorium Boy
3 / 5 (4) May 20, 2018
Sure. Lets censor everything right-wing, let through everything left-wing/progressive because it's always 'true."
Bart_A
3 / 5 (4) May 21, 2018
...from a range of trusted news sources.


And this means? If they mean sources like CNN and USA Today, then we know their results are going to be totally skewed. It is a nice way of saying, "Let us determine what you see, so we can brainwash you for the rest of your life."

SwamiOnTheMountain
1 / 5 (1) May 26, 2018
1984 or duckduckgo

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