Robert Thompson has launched a nationwide campaign to bring more transparency to the processes by which the huge tech-media giants filter content that they display to their users.
As reported by The Western Journal, Thompson has endorsed the formation of an “algorithm review board” whose job it would be to expose any arbitrary and unnecessary content restrictions or preferences regarding the way the companies provide content and how they make such determinations.
News Corp, which is also the parent company of publisher HarperCollins, has already lodged an official complaint against Facebook, Google, and Apple in Australia.
Discussing his idea with investors, Thompson’s comments provide more insight into his company’s concerns over the commonly opaque practices of selecting content for users. Facebook and Google, especially, have been under fire lately for ‘algorithm changes’ that have downgraded content from conservative or right-leaning news and information providers. In some cases, social media platforms like YouTube have completely censored some channels.
Thompson also recommended more government regulation that would give users better understanding of how the social media companies are deciding what content they are promoting.
“The sheer amount of personal data collected by Facebook, Google and Amazon means that governments are rightly considering the establishment of an algorithm review board, which, if properly conceived, would provide the necessary transparency for individuals, clients and competitors concerned about algorithmic abuse,” he said, as reported by The Hill.
All of the companies have come under heavy scrutiny in recent months as some have charged that algorithms they employed were used to change or shape public opinion while promoting only certain political and ideological points of view, which critics believe may have impacted the 2016 election.
The CEO also said he believes that as technology improves the problem is only going to get worse as algorithms become more complex and insidious if not addressed.
“These algorithms are already potent but they are destined to be much more formidable, and their abundant potential to skew news and skew our customers needs to be better understood and monitored,” Thompson noted.
This isn’t just a case of sour grapes over the downgrading of conservative content. The Left, after all, has complained the loudest about manipulation of the American public by foreign governments — notably Russia — via social media.
But also, for social media platforms that claim to be unbiased and open about their content procedures, the results show otherwise: Studies have proven that conservative points of view are being purposefully singled-out, silenced or subdued. (Related: Google now waging all-out censorship war against conservative websites through “fact checking” that’s no more than biased opinion.)
In its complaint submitted earlier this month to a competition regulator in Australia, News Corp made a pitch for additional regulations to ensure that content isn’t being manipulated or censored by tech/media firms that wield outsized influence over the public and media industry in general.
“Digital platforms impose restrictive contract terms and engage in aggressive mergers and acquisitions in order to neutralize emerging competition and extend their market power,” said the complaint, as The Western Journal noted.
This has led to media outlets directly negotiating with the gigantic social media companies which stand accused of having too much power, and often against their own best interests — a lousy situation to be in.
As such, Thompson said that News Corp “and other publishers are also in discussion with Facebook, which certainly professes concern about virtue and veracity.”
If media companies can address the root issue of achieving more transparency, then Thompson believes consumers may be able to better identify and locate quality content.
“We are confident that a renewed focus on provenance and on integrity will benefit our mastheads, our journalism and our advertising clients, who are learning more each day about the potential dangers of digital,” Thompson he said.
It’s not likely that the social media behemoths are going to meekly agree to more content regulation, but if they’re forced to do so — either by the media industry or a regulatory body — ultimately the public will be better served.
Don’t be denied quality content — stay tuned for the launch of Brighteon.com, the answer to YouTube’s censorship.
J.D. Heyes is also editor-in-chief of The National Sentinel.