The first three months of 2005 is turning out to be a cursed quarter for the PR department at the Googleplex. This week, the public spotlight focused on Google News for two less-than-honourable mentions.
First, Google News has been forced to remove materials from Agence France Presse (AFP) after AFP filed suit against Google for displaying image and text content copyrighted to AFP. Google News was also informed that any use of copyrighted materials would be considered further infringement on AFP’s copyright and would add to the current $17.5-million AFP is seeking in damages. Google has managed to remove current stories generated from AFP however it caches news articles for up to 30-days.
Next, Google News hand-selects its sources. While an algorithm based on publishing popularity chooses which articles are found under which keyword phrases, the news-authority sources themselves are supposed to be pre-screened by a human. That is what makes the recent appearance of two white supremacist (neo-nazi) propaganda sites so troubling to readers and Internet watchers. One site is the in-your-face racist National Vanguard which openly represents hatred against Jews, persons of colour and anyone else who doesn’t fit a narrow Arian mould. Another is the ultra-right wing German National-Zeitung website that calls for expulsion of “… all criminal foreigners.” German tech-magazine de.internet.com spoke with Stefan Keuchel, a spokesperson for Google Germany. Here is a quote from Philipp Lenssen’s Google Blogoscoped,
“We received a lot of emails in the US from people who thought it wasn’t too great ‘National Vanguard’ is included.” But Google itself was politically neutral and wanted to offer its readers information from a variety of different sources. Keuchel continued to say: “We are respecting existing laws. If something turns out to be illegal, it will be immediately removed.”
In Canada, such material is covered by Federal Hate-Crimes legislation, a topic of a recent parliamentary sub-committee. The sub-committee made news last week when it recommended that Canada’s strict, long-standing laws regarding hate-literature should be better enforced in light of the advancement of the Internet.
Google can’t seem to catch a break, even in the timing of Canadian parliamentary committee reports and the appearance of neo-Nazi websites as legitimate news sources. Given the fact that Google has (PhD for PhD) the most educated staff on the planet, one is left wondering if there really are laws of Karma and exactly where Google is sitting in regards to such laws.