Via Greg Linden, I came across this interesting quote from Eric Schmidt about the obligation to help newspapers succeed:
Finally, Eric claimed Google has a moral duty to help newspapers succeed:
Google sees itself as trying to make the world a better place. And our values are that more information is positive — transparency. And the historic role of the press was to provide transparency, from Watergate on and so forth. So we really do have a moral responsibility to help solve this problem.
Well-funded, targeted professionally managed investigative journalism is a necessary precondition in my view to a functioning democracy … That’s what we worry about … There [must be] enough revenue that … the newspaper [can] fulfill its mission.
This is great that Google feels this professional responsibility. And I wholeheartedly agree with Schmidt that “more information is positive”. My only question is: Why don’t we see “more information” and transparency when it comes to other media companies, aka search engines? Newspapers engage in investigative journalism in order to bring stories from industry and politics to the citizens. Search engines engage in algorithmic retrieval in order to bring stories from the newspapers (and other sources) to the citizens. The historical role of the press has been to provide transparency. So also is the modern role of the retrieval engine to provide transparency. And just as a good reporter has to cite sources to make their stories credible, so should a search algorithm provide explanatory interfaces, algorithms, and information to make their results credible.
Shouldn’t there be an expectation of as much information and transparency from our search interfaces and algorithms as we have from our press? It is no secret that I think there should be. It is a goal that I strive for in my own research; I can’t say that it’s not difficult, but it is worth striving for.
See also some of my previous posts: