VIEW, CALIFORNIA – (MPN) Search
engine and advertising monolith Google continued to press its
offensive against alternative media this week with an announcement
unveiling a new $300 million project called the Google News
initiative encompasses a range of new projects announced by the
tech giant, which has long been accused of enjoying a monopoly
position and of siphoning off digital advertising revenue from
traditional news publishers.
sees it differently, however, and asserted in a press
statement announcing the initiative that it “paid $12.6
billion to partners” while driving “10 billion clicks a month to
publishers’ websites for free.” The company is now promising to
continue working “with publishers to elevate accurate, quality
content and stem the flow of misinformation and disinformation.”
move will likely drive the stake further into the heart of
independent media while merging Silicon Valley with mainstream
publishers traded on Wall Street and aligned with the agendas of
beltway politicians in Washington.
dissident voices en masse
Washington Post’s Don Graham, Billionaire Warren Buffett and
Google’s Eric Schmidt chat at the annual Allen and Co.’s
conference, July 7, 2005. (AP/Douglas C. Pizac)
commitments we’re making through the Google News Initiative
demonstrate that news and quality journalism is [sic] a top
priority for Google. We know that success can only be achieved
by working together, and we look forward to collaborating with
the news industry to build a stronger future for journalism.”
in a partnership with a range of traditional corporate media
giants – including The
Washington Post, The
New York Times, Financial
Times, and U.S. newspaper giant Gannett – the project
promises to combat so-called “fake news” and misinformation. Many
reasonably fear, based on recent trends, that this will mean the
further marginalization of non-hegemonic left-wing and
conservative media — as well as a sort of “death by algorithm” for
already-struggling publishers who once flourished, prior to the
hysteria over alleged “Russian interference” and propaganda in the
Nienstaedt for MintPress News.
initiative will include a new lab to analyze and parse out what is
deemed “mis- and disinformation during elections and breaking news
moments;” a fact-checking partnership with Stanford University and
corporate media non-profit groups like the Local
Media Association and the Poynter
Institute; and a new service meant
to expedite reader subscriptions to pay-gated news websites, among
other new projects.
the past decade, companies that enjoyed a monopoly in the U.S.
media market — such as Gannett, Hearst, and The Times — saw their
readership base, as well as the advertising revenue on which they
depend, largely evaporate in the face of the rise in online news
outlets. Such new competition included state-funded broadcasters
like Al-Jazeera, PressTV and RT,
as well as dissident voices at smaller news sites offering
original journalism, like MintPress
News, Truthout, Monthly Review, the World Socialist Website, and
a range of alternative and volunteer-based journalism outfits
across the globe.
April, Google clamped down on alternative media with new
structural changes to its algorithms — accompanying the change
with an announcement tarring alternative media with the broad
black brush of “misleading information, unexpected offensive
results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories” as opposed to
what it called “authoritative content.”
a result, organic search-engine traffic to these sites uniformly
plummeted to less than half of what it had previously been,
devastating many publishers.
Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Inc., stands in the
lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Jan. 12, 2017. (AP/Evan Vucci)
parent company, Alphabet Inc., has seen its stock
dive this week amid a broader selloff of tech stocks
resulting from the Cambridge Analytica controversy embroilingFacebook.
former Google and Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt
once argued that
“policymakers should work with the grain of the internet rather
than against it [and] allow innovation to flourish,” tech
platforms have faced mounting pressure from governments across the
globe, which are constant threats to step in and regulate the
lawlessness that once reigned across the world wide web.
companies from the same corporate-media roster with which Google
is now partnering have been leading the charge calling for
regulation, arguing that
the tech giant failed to protect users from alleged abuse in the
form of false information spread by Russian operatives.
last November, Schmidt was already caving in to pressure on the
company resulting from the hue and cry over “Kremlin meddling” in
the U.S. electoral process.
that he was opposed to censorship, the Google leader nonetheless
announced that the company would begin to purposefully reduce the
presence of “misinformation” sites, like Russian government-owned
Sputnik and RT, on Google News by “deranking” the sites in news
search results and “trying to engineer the systems” to prevent the
classification of “propaganda” as legitimate news.
which is witnessing a PR
meltdown after the revelation that it allowed the data
of 50 million users to be misused by right-wing political
operatives, is also undertaking measures to prioritize content
from mainstream outlets like The
Times while using the fact-checking services of
corporate nonprofits and wire agencies like Associated Press.
algorithmic gag to silence the people
the share prices of corporate media outlets and Silicon Valley
alike begin to tumble and the rise of anti-systemic social
movements, anti-capitalist perspectives and opposition voices
continues unabated, it’s become a matter of consensus for
politicians, billionaire tech geeks and media moguls alike that
the internet must be policed in a stricter manner.
“new media” monopolists of Silicon Valley and the once-dominant
traditional print media have clearly agreed that the “fake news”
frenzy is a convenient pretext to step up their censorship of the
internet through new algorithms, allowing them to boost their
profit margins and silence opposition through a new framework of
new model overwhelmingly favors those who see information and
journalism as an article of commerce alone. It poses a stark
threat not only to internet users’ ability to access information,
but to the ability of citizens and social movements that hope to
interact with, participate in, and wield influence over the
political and economic activities that determine our lives and the
fate of communities across the world.
Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR
English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito,
Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing
in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability
movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.