Feeds

Google News' chief robot speaks out

Bleep - it's not my fault - bleep

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

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”

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.