News Corp. Boss Blasts Platforms On Real, Fake News

News Corp. Boss Blasts Platforms On Real, Fake News

by Erik Sass, Staff Writer @eriksass1, April 5, 2017

Robert Thomson has some serious concerns about the impact of big tech platforms on the news business, and he isn’t shy about it.

News Corp. Boss Blasts Platforms On Real, Fake News

This week, the News Corp. CEO published an op-ed piece unloading on Google and Facebook for their commodification of news and information, as well as their complacency regarding “fake news” and negligence when it comes to providing brand-safe environments for advertisers.

The op-ed, published in a number of News Corp. properties, including The Wall Street Journal and Australia’s The Age, draws on a speech Thomson gave at a conference in Hong Kong last month. The double-barreled attack included a warning on the disproportionate power of the “digital duopoly,” as Thomson called it.

According to Thomson, Google set the process in motion by presenting news as a commodity, with no regard for the credibility of various sources, and Facebook has merely taken this disregard to the next level: “Google’s commodification of content knowingly, willfully undermined provenance for profit. That was followed by the Facebook stream, with its journalistic jetsam and fake flotsam. Together, the two most powerful news publishers in human history have created an ecosystem that is dysfunctional and socially destructive.”

Then there’s the platforms’ self-contradictory stance on their proprietary algorithms, which Thomson notes are able to track minute details about users but, somehow, totally unable to detect objectionable or pirated content.

“These algorithms are obviously set, tuned and repeatedly adjusted to suit their commercial needs. Yet they also blame autonomous, anarchic algorithms and not themselves when neo-fascist content surfaces or when a search leads to obviously biased results in favor of their own products,” he says.

Ironically, all this is the result of an ideological stance (or at least, justification) that is superficially attractive: “Curiously, this outcome is, in part, a result of the idealism of the Silicon Valley set, and there’s no doubt about the self-proclaimed ideals. They devoutly believe they are connecting people and informing them, which is true, even though some of the connections become conspiracies and much of the information is skimmed without concern to intellectual property rights.”

Thomson also unloaded on the platforms’ failure to embrace transparency in the area of metrics and data, although he was quick to note there is plenty of blame to go around here: “…Yet instead of perfect precision we have the cynical arbitraging of ambiguity particularly in the world of audiences. Some advertising agencies are also clearly at fault because they, too, have been arbitraging and prospering from digital ambiguity as money in the ad business has shifted from actually making ads to aggregating digital audiences and ad tech, better known as fad tech.”

The apparent negligence of the big tech platforms in areas like brand safety has triggered a growing backlash. Earlier this week, a consortium of regional news publishers in Britain published an open letter warning advertisers not to trust “blind programmatic” ad programs to provide brand-safe environments. Search Marketing Daily