Commentary

Will Google's Revised News Algorithm Quell Antitrust Critics?

Google’s effort to give original reporting a higher ranking on its news page may appease some publishers, but is less likely to quell criticism from politicians who say the search giant is biased or too powerful.

Alphabet-owned Google last week said its revised news algorithms would place greater emphasis on original reporting, suggesting that countless other news aggregators that publish rewritten “hot takes” would fade in its rankings.

Refining those algorithms is a constant process for Google, considering that many publishers continually look for ways to improve unpaid search results with the clever use of keywords in page titles, descriptions and story content. Google has a near-monopoly on internet search, making it a key source of web traffic for publishers.

That online dominance is one of the reasons Congress and law-enforcement officials from across the country have opened antitrust probes into tech companies, including Google and Facebook, which together control 60% of the U.S. digital ad market.

Those investigations haven’t focused on how the companies affect news publishers, many of which are pushing for a law that would allow collective bargaining with Facebook and Google.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Google wasn’t swayed by the possibility of regulation to promote original news, with executives saying the technology had improved in the past decade to deliver better search results.

The changes to its news ranking likely won’t appease Google’s critics from across the political spectrum. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have targeted the company for opprobrium.

President Donald Trump has made repeated claims that Google is biased against conservatives, starting three years ago during the election.

In a highly publicized incident, Google changed its system to ensure that Trump showed up when people searched for “presidential candidates” after leaving him out of its top results. Trump hasn’t let up on Google since then, and last month suggested the company should be sued for allegedly manipulating the 2016 election.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), running in the 2020 presidential primaries, wrote in a blog post that if elected, her administration will break up tech giants, including Google, to promote competition and protect consumer privacy.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), who is also running in the Democratic primaries, last month blasted Google and Facebook for being “forces of greed that are pillaging our economy.” He described a plan to re-order the news business with taxes, cross-subsidies and trust-busting.

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