August 4, 2007

‘Big Search’: The Same Old Biased News Coverage for the Digital World?

The high-tech giants of search are attempting to position themselves as successors (or is it heirs?) to Old Media.

Hold the pompoms.

Given the political proclivities and selective indifference to human rights on the part of many of those who run the search giants, it behooves bias-watchers to pay close attention to what these companies are up to, and how they play the news they carry. It appears that The Who’s 1970s warning (“Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss”) about the results of most “revolutions” applies.

You doubt? Take a look at the disgraceful treatment blogger and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin received at the hands of Google News in a supposedly “objective, informative” early 2006 report. The sneering condescension is palpable.

Not content to be mere observers, Google’s preparation for the 2008 elections has apparently included building an out-of-balance management team in its news division (link requires free registration):

The most aggressive pursuer of the political audience, Google has assembled a team of ex-presidential campaign staffers and Washington insiders, including a few who previously worked for Al Gore, a Google senior adviser. They meet regularly to pitch new ideas, help campaigns understand advertising tools, and set up video interviews.

It may not be your father’s media world, but there are many at work trying to ensure that we end up inheriting its media bias.

….. and maybe worse. The search behemoths have shown that their moral blinders are often firmly in place when business considerations and human rights concerns compete.

This story relating to the behavior of Yahoo! in China is just one example:

Congressional investigators plan to look into whether Yahoo officials misrepresented the Internet company’s role in the arrest of a Chinese journalist sentenced to a decade in jail.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos ordered the investigation after a human rights group released a document that it said raised questions about what Yahoo knew when it shared information with authorities about Shi Tao. Beijing officials had sought Shi for sending an e-mail about Chinese media restrictions.

“For a firm engaged in the information industry, Yahoo sure has a lot of secrecy to answer for,” said Lantos, D-Calif. “We expect to learn the truth and to hold the company to account.”

Yahoo general counsel Michael Callahan told lawmakers at a hearing last year that his company had no information about the nature of the investigation when it provided details about Shi to Chinese officials, Lantos said.

But the Dui Hua Foundation has released a document that it says shows the Beijing State Security Bureau had written Yahoo saying it wanted e-mail content about Shi for an investigation into suspected “illegal provision of state secrets to foreign entities.”

Old Media’s worst actors on their worst days didn’t openly and routinely co-operate with tyrannical regimes as a matter of policy coming down from the very top.

Even as the Evening News, print, and other Old Media dinosaurs appear hellbent on causing their own extinction, the need for vigilance over those attempting to liberally manage and spin the news in the cyberworld is becoming increasingly obvious.

Cross-posted at



  1. Tom,

    The great thing about the free market is that slanted coverage is corrected by superior competition.

    Ten years ago, Alta Vista was the dominant search engine. Five years ago, it was Yahoo. Five years from now – if Google continues down this path – it’s entirely possible that Microsoft or some guy in a dorm room will be the leader.

    When I read about stuff like this, I think “business opportunity.”

    Comment by Doug Ross — August 4, 2007 @ 8:26 pm

  2. #1, yep.

    Comment by TBlumer — August 5, 2007 @ 12:19 am

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