Feeds

Google News' chief robot speaks out

Bleep - it's not my fault - bleep

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

Is Google News' chief scientist, Krishna Bharat, actually a robot? From an interview in the current issue of Wired magazine, it's increasingly difficult to conclude that Bharat could convincingly pass the Turing Test. Every time Google News is criticized for bias, Bharat is wheeled to field out an identical reply. He claims that humans can't be held responsible for what appears on his website - because machines are in charge.

"The truth is, Google News doesn't have a point of view," he tells the magazine. "It's a computer, and computers do not understand these topics the way humans do and can't be systematically biased in any direction."

Surely even a simple Eliza script could produce a more convincing reply, or at least have been tweaked moderate it subtly on each occasion. This leaves us skeptical: the Bharatbot is long overdue a maintenance upgrade.

Now even hive-minded Google fans who are predisposed to viewing the internet as a "natural democracy" (in Google's own words) are beginning to smell something fishy in the Chief Bot's refusal to take responsibility. Google News alone consistently ranks as the fifth most popular site in the United States - so its reach and influence are matters of public concern. Amongst the groups getting a chance-in-a-lifetime publicity boost from the website are the fascist British National Party, we discovered.

The controversy began eighteen months ago when Google News began to include corporate and lobbyists' press releases in its aggregator. After our stories, Google began to tag identify stories as press releases. One Friday evening back in April 2003, the company even promised to publish a public, written policy for inclusion the following Monday. (You can read what happened here). To this day, Google hasn't published a criteria for what goes in to the news aggregator, and has used the same reasoning to counter privacy concerns about its Gmail service.

It's a PR disaster almost entirely of Google's own making. Google's refusal to take responsibility for its actions isn't exactly original: at one point in an Antitrust deposition Bill Gates claimed that "the computer wrote" one particular incriminating email. It's the "cat ate my homework" excuse of the 21st Century. But Google insults the intelligence of its users, who are well aware that Google's computers process whatever its human operators tell them to process.

So human or algorithm? We're leaning towards the latter. What the Bharatbot doesn't seem to have been programmed with is the experience of ever having being someone who reads the news himself: and experience is often the vital difference between bot and machine. ®

Related link

Bharat: human or robot? You decide [Wired]

Related stories

Tide of migrant BNP PR menaces Google News
PR Rules OK? Google ducks promised News pledge
Google launches email, takes the Bill Gates defense
“This MS Antitrust story was created by a computer program”

Reducing security risks from open source software

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.