News Corp. used its third quarter investor call as a platform to continue its attack on the two dominant tech platforms whose outsized influence and practices are having a “deleterious effect” on journalism.
Chief Executive Robert Thomson expressed concern about the opaque role of algorithms, the secret, behind-the-scenes calculations that determine what information consumers see. He called for the creation of an Algorithm Review Board to monitor for abuse.
“These algorithms are already potent, but they are destined to be much more formidable, and their abundant potential to skew news and skewer customers needs to be better understood and monitored,” Thomson said. “And an Algorithm Review Board, or ARB, would be particularly useful in the oversight of companies, which have horizontal dominance, and use that leverage to dominate a vertical, such as Amazon with audiobooks and, potentially, Facebook with dating.”
News Corp. has been sparring with Silicon Valley’s tech giants, arguing they exert a choke-hold over news organizations. Just last week, the company filed a complaint with an Australian regulator claiming Google, Facebook and Apple are engaging in anti-competitive practices that are damaging journalism.
In its complaint, News Corp. said Facebook and Google directly influence three-quarters of internet traffic and exert “a strong influence on how readers access and engage with News Corp. Australia’s content.” That’s where the news organization first floated the idea of an algorithm review board.
In the U.S., Murdoch has floated the idea of Facebook and Google paying a cable-TV like carriage fee to legitimate news providers.
During the investor call, Thomson applauded Google for replacing its “first click free” policy, which required publishers to offer three free articles a day before readers would encounter a pay wall. He thanked Google CEO Sundar Pichai helping end a practice that he said punished high-quality journalism.
“It is, however, just a first step on the pathway to provenance,” Thomson said.
Click here to read more.