March 25, 2005 4:00 AM PST

All the news that robots pick

Chalk it up to a difficult week for Google's automated news service, which aims to best traditional newspapers with mathematical algorithms and robots crawling the Web.

The Web search giant was hit with a lawsuit from French news agency Agence France Presse, forcing it to start to pull thousands of photos and news stories from its service. Then critics lashed out over its decision to include reports from National Vanguard, a publication that espouses white supremacy. In response, Google said it will remove the publication from its index.

Both are black eyes to Google's theory that computers virtually unassisted by human editors can pick the top stories of the day and beat traditional media at its own craft.


What's new:
Google News, which aims to best traditional newspapers with mathematical algorithms and robots crawling the Web, has come under fire, as critics urge it to reveal its sources.

Bottom line:
The tensions hit on the growing pains of changing news consumption and distribution, and raise questions about the need for standards that go beyond what technology can provide.

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Google's own description of the service, which is still in beta after three years, defies the two instances that cropped up this week: "Google News is a highly unusual news service in that our results are compiled solely by computer algorithms, without human intervention."

The tensions hit on the growing pains of changing news consumption and distribution. On the one hand, readers are eagerly using aggregation services like Google News to save time and find news they're interested in from one location. But the digital melting pot of news also has raised questions about the need for standards that go beyond what technology can provide.

"It's a searchable newsstand, and it's a wonderful source," said Janice E. Castro, director of Graduate Journalism Programs at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and former editor of "But you're used to being able to say, 'There's the good newspaper; there's the poor stuff.' In search, it's all the same color and all the same size, and it's not ranked by quality."

"The best is mixed up with things that are far from the best," Castro said.

Google's feet are being held to the fire because it uses its technology to mine the depths of the Web to compile news. Yahoo News, in contrast, searches for news but also forms partnerships with content providers to populate its service. Google declined to comment on whether it has licensing deals with content owners.

In addition, Google News and similar news aggregation sites have become considerably powerful, forcing news organizations like the AFP to rethink their purpose and news distribution strategies. An increasing number of people turn to search as a way to access news, and many publishers have failed to answer

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Bumps in the road, not black eyes! Stop whining!
These tiny little bumps in the road hardly warrant a front page story about Google's failure to deliver a viable and useful news service.

It is asinine to put the responsibility of filtering news content by "quality" (or any other subjective criteria) on Google or any other news service or agency. Doing so amounts to nothing more than forcing them into the role of a censor, a seat that the 800 lb. gorilla otherwise known as the FCC's bloated a$$ more than fills.

As you pointed out, searching for news online is becoming the method of choice to access news for more and more people every day. If the news organizations can't keep up, that's not Google's fault. Welcome to the free marketplace. Condemning them for offering what people want is just whining about the fact that you are losing to the competition. Stop complaining! You have a choice: Change your business model and be successful, or go ahead and give up and close the doors. Oh, by the way: if you choose to thrown in the towel, you can always sell your 'previously enjoyed' office furniture on EBay. Or not.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Just the opposite
An Example: Yesterday morning I woke up, checked google news, top story was about how top federal judges were refusing the case of the essentially brain dead Terri. Later in the day walking about, the headline for the Oregonian, my local big city paper, still stated "High court to Decide Fate" Editors around the country had already moved on from that story. It looked silly that a headline that was supposed to grab us was terribly out of date.

We need robots. Hours now matter with news, more than ever before. newspapers are massive waste of resources: they just rehash the same stories from AP or reuters and NYT and copy paste into a standard template. Why must we waste so much time reading irrelevent ads and using forrests to make hundreds of thousands of trees?
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Content Wars
AFP's legal action against Google is just an opening salvo in the "Content Wars." The real question is who owns what they publish? If copyright laws, as now interpreted, are applied, it would seem that Google is a legal "user" in that context, as are say, libraries. But, if a more modern interpretation is used, taking into account the Internet's capabilities as a circulation and publication medium, is there any protection for the copyright owner?
Music seems to achieved protection,, as have photos for commercial use, Website designs, and much more.
The question here seems to be that having offered it's content online without a fee, can AFP now say that "reusers" or rebroadcasters of it's content are somehow restricted from their particular use?
Many will remember recent legal action of Toys 'R Us to protect it's copyrighted trade name from misuse, and many others. Do commercial (and other)publishers have the same obligation to vigorously protect the "content" they have designed?
What would happen if all Internet content creators charged a fee for their content to each user or visitor, or charged for licenses to "use" the content"
Publishers can't have their cake and eat it to, and, so appropriately in this case they can't say, "let them eat cake." (With questionable attribution to Marie Antoinette). If they choose to publish on the Internet, and such publishing is driven by commercial, for-profit interest in promoting their site and encouraging visitors for advertising and circulation reasons, can AFP now say that "Ooops, we didn't intend for Google or others to republish or use our content without paying for it?"
Sorry, AFP, the cat appears to be "out of the bag", in this case. This particular case aside, it does raise a question that has to be answered; namely, that having offered your content anywhere for commercial purposes for free, do you then have the right to prevent it's further use or reuse for other commercial enterprises? Does the doctrine of "first use" apply, in which having sold your "content" are your rights over it gone forever?
In the case of books, music, and other creative product, US laws says no, you can prevent certain commercial reuse of your creative content, such as a video or DVD movie shown by someone and charing admission; unauthorized wholesale duplication,or, music played over the radio must pay a fee to an organization which then pays the music owners for that usage.
Does "news" fall into that category? The Supreme Court has ruled otherwise, but considering the growth of the Internet and the volume of new "news" sources, it might revisit that decision, based on determining content ownership and usage. It would be a shame, and maybe the devolution of the Internet, if content, once published for free to serve some commercial, institutional or other interest, was then restricted from availability to Interent users.
Maybe content should be fee-based and licensed as necessary to encourage creators through the profit motive. But wouldn't Internet driven search engines like Google go away? Wouldn't a truly marvelous innovation (meaning search) just dry up without a universe of source material to present?
If we change the business model to be like that for music, set up an umbrella organization to collect and distribute "royalties, and charge just a penny for each search? each URL retreived in a search?
We're talking billions a week here folks, and an unmanageble system.
Let's keep information and content on the Internet "open source" and let everyone use it for free, unless you want to charge for your hard work, creative content, which is OK as well,BUT ONLY AT YOUR DESTINATION WEBSITE, not as abbreviated, or summaraized on an aggreator's website to "spread the word."
I don't know how upset the end user will be when they get to a site and find that the content isn't free; maybe that will just force the search engines to eliminate those sites from results. But wouldn't you somehow feel "unfairly left out" if you were an unincluded content designer? Your choice, I guess, since you refused to allow the content to be indexed.
Would this process unfairly restrict the availablility of information and content to the public? Should it?
My guess is that you really can't "have your cake and eat it too" as far as Internet publishing is concerned.
This whole question is complicated and deserves thoughtful and public-interest motivated discussion from many interests. At the same time, people and organizatins who "create" must be compensated for their work, if they so choose.
But they can't have both; "free" content promotion through Internet publishing, and compensation from the world at large for their content, even their listing inclusion in the thousands of search engines that indirectly "promote" their existance.
In the case of AFP, maybe it's just a simple solution; block their site from indexing of content by search engines. Wait, let me think, isn't that the opposite of what most content providers do?
Posted by bdennis410 (175 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google is scaring me mommy
A black eye cuz the crawler went too deep into protected web content?
Or because someone didnt monitor my news enough, to make sure I didnt see any white supremacy propaganda hiding out as news stories?

The company who is suing them is going to get eaten for lunch as soon as Google pulls all their pages. Lets see how many people see their news now.

It does make very good sense though that a French company is whining about this and also doesnt have enough technical expertise to secure there subscription services from Googles crawlers.

All they would have to do is make their articles database fed, instead of static HTML.
That is how my noob booty would do it till I understood how their crawlers better.

The only person who should be ranking MY news is me. Google gives me a huge index that bests any stand alone news site. Who cares if a piece of crap article slips in every once and awhile?

Good job Google, keep up the good work and dont !

Dont hate the player ladies, hate the game.
Everyone should take notice to how Google is changing the game.
Posted by pcpimpster (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sorry about the bad grammar on this post.

I was interrupted by this 10 yr old kid at my door, trying to sell me a newspaper with a front-page Google showed me yesterday for free.

I told him that he was basically a slave laborer and was selling an ancient information medium that hurts the environment.

Also, I left out the data driven article option would need a few session variables in there for security but should do the trick nicely with hiding secured content.
Posted by pcpimpster (31 comments )
Link Flag
AFP allowed Google to index, quote and link to their content
AFP allowed Google to index, quote and link to their content!

There are Internet standards. There are ways to tell robots what to retrieve and what not to retrieve; what links to follow and what links not to follow (such as robots.txt file or lack of it). By using the internet as a publication and distribution medium AFP implicitly agreed to follow these standards. Google robots did exactly what AFP allowed them to do using internet standards. If they don't like the standards they can cease using the internet, or work to change the standards in the proper way!

Think of it this way: Google's agent arrives at AFP's gates. The gatekeeper tell's Google's agent that OK to look in rooms 1, 2 and 3 and report on whatever's there. It's not OK to report on what's in rooms 4-9, or to enter them. If Google's agent doesn't go into rooms 4-9, there's nothing for AFP to complain about. If the gatekeeper told Google it's OK to look in room 3 even though the management decided it's not OK, they should not sue Google, but rather replace the gatekeeper that hadn't followed orders, or the executive that hasn't informed the gatekeepr of the policy and followed up on the execution of the policy.

Instead of suing Google, AFP should replace either their webmaster or whoever was in charge of the webmaster and hadn't made sure their policies were implemented in the design of the website. Or did they have these policies before they decided to sue Google for some cash?
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"noindex, nofollow, nosue"
The selfserving hit piece by Cnet against Google may
be fair game for competitive advertising, but that
doesn't make it a news story. Of course, what's good
for George and Arnold is good for Cnet News.

Corporate media conglomerate AFP could instruct
anyBot from searching its content with a couple lines
of source code. Not to do so instructs everyone that
headlines, blurbs and thumbnails of images are "fair

If Google were to publish standards for news sources,
exploits would be hours away and thousands of
opportunistic startups would further stuff the
Internet with incessant spam, promising your site top
placement on Google News. While some of the
consequences of the Google algorithms are annoying
to content providers, they are constantly trying to
improve their fair-handed approach to getting real
news easily. Except for the front page, alternative or
small content providers get fairly good placement in
news searches.

When you want to preview homogenous sludge that
you'll get to see on the evening news, Yahoo is the
place to go. When you're searching for a breaking
story that might appear in Sri Lanka before CNN
waters down the information, Google still has the
edge over RSS.

Google Viv!

Randall White
Oakland CA
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