Ben Thompson reacts to Google’s latest effort to bury fake news and hate speech. In particular, he throws a flag on Google’s plan to favor “authoritative” sources—and especially on the fact that Google will almost certainly not reveal what grants a site this privileged status.
Google is going to be making decisions about who is authoritative and who is not, which is another way of saying that Google is going to be making decisions about what is true and what is not, and that demands more transparency, not less.
For better or worse, of course, Google is our de facto truth machine. Most of the world turns to its search engine to answer a question. That’s what makes this whole situation so thorny: as the world’s primary source for facts, Google must be more discerning than it is now. And yet the act of being more discerning amplifies its influence even more.
Perhaps the most unanticipated outcome of the unfettered nature of the Internet is that the sheer volume of information didn’t disperse influence, but rather concentrated it to a far greater degree than ever before, not to those companies that handle distribution (because distribution is free) but to those few that handle discovery.