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> Google is not liable for anything they publish/display, but still have the power to choose what they publish/display.

Choosing how to respond to a query string is the very nature of what a search engine does. It's utterly impossible to have one without the other. The more charitable interpretation of your argument is that there should be more "neutrality" in the algorithm, but that's also difficult... Should they be neutral to whether or not people are trying to manipulate algorithms with dishonest SEO? Should they be neutral to what other users like? Neutral to who else links to the page? Who decides which neutrality prevails where they conflict? Who decides if a certain kind of neutrality is more important than user preferences or market demands?

This is a rabbit hole of mutually exclusive goals and inevitable trade-offs that requires complex judgment. Government regulation in this area would be extremely difficult and troublesome, not just for economic reasons but also for first amendment ones. Free market competition in this area is going to be limited due to economies of scale, so that isn't perfect either.

And if you think that imposing traditional publisher liability for search engines is likely to make search engines censor _less_, you might want to think a few steps further down the strategic consequences.




The only way to resolve this is to make the search algorithm public, so that we actually know how the results should be interpreted.


Are you in general violently opposed to Intellectual Property, or only in this case?


Only in this case. Search rules our entire economy and deserves a special status.


Maybe we should start with easy problems.

I'm not proposing that we have a "fair" algorithm. I think two simple actions would suffice:

1) Google (and other platforms) should stop removing content from people they do not agree with in their platforms.

2) They also should publicize why one result was chosen over the other. That would give users the necessary information to decide if Google is biased or not. Everyone would make decisions based on publicly available information.

That alone would make things way more transparent and level the playing field a bit.

Unless Google doesn't want that. If that's the case, them they are a publisher and not a platform.


Google News has no concept of 'agree with' it simply tries to find a news result based on what it thinks you want to see.

There are no politics baked in.

Google news will display what its users want to see.

Your issue is not with Google News. Your issue is with the users of Google news.


How do you know this?


> Google (and other platforms) should stop removing content from people they do not agree with in their platforms.

Citation needed.

> They also should publicize why one result was chosen over the other.

Seems like this would make it much easier for the SEO spam sites to manipulate.


Here is a list from wikipedia on twitter suspensions, not sure how up-to-date it is. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter_suspensions

I believe it's factual to say that significantly more "conservative-related" accounts are banned than liberal ones? Is that because "they don't agree with" the conservatives more than the liberals? I dunno.


What does Twitter have to do with Google?


@deelowe, sure.

- https://boingboing.net/2019/05/02/facebook-just-deplatformed...

- https://mashable.com/article/deplatforming-alex-jones-2018/

I can probably find a lot more, but I guess this is enough to make the point, right?

> Unless Google doesn't want that. If that's the case, them they are a publisher and not a platform.

Would you rather fight spammers and keep free-speech alive or give it up over to Google and other platforms?

I know where I stand.


> Would you rather fight spammers and keep free-speech alive or give it up over to Google and other platforms?

Spam is a form of censorship. Too much of it and it becomes a denial of service attack that makes publishing impossible.

Let's say you claim you have free speech, because you can go into any park, stand on a soapbox, and give a speech. Only, I have blanketed every major park with loud speakers that overwhelm what you say with noise, or GPT-2 generated fake speeches run through WaveNet.

I used to believe that 'the solution to bad speech is just more speech', but this was a naive pre-mass internet view of how speech and publishing works. In a word where robots can literally saturate every one of your media channels, spam up your email, your phone with robo calls, your text messages, the idea of these platform providers NOT filtering and censoring is itself a form of assault on free speech and public conversation in the town square.


I think now we are getting somewhere with the discussion. I like your points.

What you described is a real problem and I believe that’s the problem we have to solve.

I’m not a lawyer but I’m pretty sure that situations like the one you described where free speech is negated are already addressed on the law. So spammers would be treated by it.

In that case, platforms would work to identify the sources and work with the justice department to prevent specific actors from performing crimes such as spamming and DDOSing.

This would be fine, in my opinion, because now everybody would be working against known criminals with specific and objective criteria as to why they should be “deplatformed”.

However, what Google is doing today is removing or de-prioritizing content that diverge from its opinion without any recourse for the person affected because they are not treated as publishers and THAT is not okay.


Free speech has never been about having free unrestricted access to private platforms. The bandwidth of private platforms for media has always been limited, be it broadcast TV bandwidth, or the the editorial policy of news papers and their disproportionate audience sizes (sucking up all the oxygen and providing a huge megaphone). Fringe views rarely even got airings a few decades ago, and it wasn't until cable TV gave us 500 channels, did the lower scarcity of outlets bring out more diversity.

Alex Jones, for example, can run his own video hosting site if he wants. He's rich and could surely hire someone to build a site one on of the cloud providers, it's getting cheaper everyday. A big chunk of the HN audience could probably build it in a few weeks sprint on AWS on the cheap.

The whole point of the internet is that anyone can run a server on it. He is not entitled to publish from YouTube. And in fact, the argument that he has a right to be heard on there is only strengthening Google's monopoly and centralizing the internet by arguing almost the only way to host video, and exposing him to risk of deplatforming.

If you were a regular writer for say, the New York Times, or Readers Digest, or the Wall Street Journal, and had a huge audience, you had the same risk of sudden deprioritizing and deplatforming if the editor decided you were toxic. You don't have a right to free speech and free audience on private media platforms.

And let's be frank, what the tech companies are doing is responding to the public pressure, because the vast majority of people object to the content that's being deplatformed, and their advertisers object to advertising on platforms where most of the customers object to the content being associated with the product. A small percentage of angry political zealots on the extremes of both political wings are turning themselves into "victims".

The internet and web is the real public square here, the real printing press, NOT YouTube, Facebook, et al. And just like decades ago, if you found yourself unpopular and couldn't get your fringe magazine distributed on the shelves of major book stores, you'd self publish and self distribute to build your audience.

We need to get back to the way the internet used to be anyway. More people need to run their own websites.


I can't agree enough with you. Everything you say makes sense for a private company.

What also makes sense for a private company and, in this case, a publishing company is that they are liable for what they publish.

That means that people can take action in the justice system if they think a contract was broken or any sort of harm was made.

Unfortunately, that is not the case with these platforms. You can't take action against them because they are not categorized as publishers, but as platforms instead which do not make them liable for things that they would otherwise be.

Make Google, Facebook and other "platforms" into publishers and this problem is solved.


I know I will probably get downvoted by this comment, but I find it really interesting that in 2 hours I got 4 downvotes just in this comment and no argument to explain it.

I know downvoting is a tool that is available to us, but it really strikes me when someone is willing to cast a "negative" vote anonymously and most likely with no fundamentals attached to it instead of engaging in a respectful argument where all opinions are presented.


The all-too-sad answer to this is that HN, like any other forum, has a particular demographic, and the demographic here (predominantly well-to-do urbanites) has a certain political lean. People, generally speaking, can not divorce their political beliefs from their actions and act purely objectively, which, for example, is why we have laws and company rules about even creating an appearance of impropriety.

You can ask, beg, threaten, whatever all you want to for people to be objective and measured and to follow the stated principles, but people will simply vote you into invisibility simply because they have a knee-jerk, primate-brain reaction to the ideas being posted. This is not a problem that can be solved, here, or anywhere else.

It's a human problem, not a tech problem.

On that note, it's best to never complain about being downvoted. It only attracts more downvotes.


That's the sad reality I see as well.

If you look into my comments, you will see that most of them are downvoted simply because I differ from the main opinion of the demographics.

While it makes me a little sad to see an unjustified downvote I think that in the great scheme of things it doesn't really matter.

I'll keep voicing my opinion, for as long as I can even if that means I'm going to be downvoted. Ah, that includes "complaining" about downvotes as well just to fulfill the profecy ehehehe.


For what it's worth, I get downvotes for political posts too, and I'm the sort of person who thinks Nazis should thank people for the punches they get.

The notion that you're somehow victim of a political bias is not well supported. You're essentially shouting, "Debate me you cowards" and that's why you're going to get downvoted more.

As a courtesy to you, I will explain that it's extremely likely you're being downloaded because your argument is essentially (although perhaps unwittingly? who can say!) an argument to censor all tech companies as publishers. This is an argument to use the government to compel conservative speech on private industry, while at the same time not once asking questions like, "Should we then force 20 minutes of Marxist/Leninist or Anarchist (or even just a scientist calmly explaining the reality of climate change) content onto Alex Jones's or Rush Limbaugh's show?

Indeed, throughout the course of this argument you're simultaneously arguing that Alex Jones should have unlimited speech but if Google does the same thing (highlighting what they consider to be reputable 3rd parties) they should be treated as a "publisher" and subject to fairness doctrine and stripped of safe harbor.

That's an awful idea. But what's more, it's patently obvious that you're arguing a double standard to anyone who is not eagerly to use the State's authority as a literal-and-figurative club even as the State itself skirts freedom of speech laws. And as such, it's likely folks are reading your argument, assuming it's offered disingenuously, and hitting downvote.


Thank you!

Here’s my point of view. The purpose of discussion, I believe, is to convince people of a given point of view.

That is done through rational and logical debate.

So when you say that I’m inviting people for a debate I have to agree. After all, isn’t that the purpose of a public forum?

If we can’t go deep and have meaningful discussions what’s the point?

Just do some virtue signaling and bash whoever is the person we are bashing this time?

When I invite argumentation I’m honestly looking for people to present arguments that can convince me. I’m open to be convinced, just not by empty argumentation and fallacies. What I’m getting, instead, is downvoting which reinforce the bias you said I have. Right?

Also, you mention that what I’m proposing it’s an awful idea with no counter argumentation. Is this how we suppose to convince people now? Especially the ones on the other side of the isle?

I used to do that too, but then, through argumentation I was thought that it is not how it should be done and in the journey I was able to help some other people to see that too and I’m proud of it.

I think that as long as there is respect we all can have a discussion and learn from each other so for whoever reads this and see any of my comments in future threads, please know that all my positions and arguments are made in good faith and only have the goal to promote intellectual challenging.

Lastly, I have not defended Alex Jones in any comment I made. To be honest, I read and hear a lot about him but I have no idea what his thoughts are. I’m just pointing out the fact that people are being “deplatformized” arbitrarily and I don’t agree with that.


> That is done through rational and logical debate... So when you say that I’m inviting people for a debate I have to agree. After all, isn’t that the purpose of a public forum?

This is what you'd like from this forum. Actually, political debates are not what I'm here for even though I participate sometimes.

> If we can’t go deep and have meaningful discussions what’s the point?

You're not really entitled to a sympathetic audience here. Nor is it necessarily obvious that you're debating.

> Just do some virtue signaling and bash whoever is the person we are bashing this time?

If you're mad that humans tend to influence one another, why are you here? Does it not infuriate you?

And what is virtue signaling if not this very post you've written, trying to appeal to a Hitchens-ian notion that only through debate of your style and terms can we reach truth. You're constantly reminding people of the importance of debating you foe the sake of the public forum and talking about "profecy" that no coward dares to debate you. Is that not itself a kind of virtue signaling?

> I’m just pointing out the fact that people are being “deplatformized” arbitrarily and I don’t agree with that.

The guy literally went to court, swore and oath to tell the truth, and told the court his entire show was an act to sell soy supplements. He's not news, he's not a content creator, he's a weird surrealist advertiser of postmodernist medical products. Advertisers don't get free rides, they have to pay.


>deplatforming Alex Jones

Just as a datapoint, I just googled "Alex Jones"[0] about 5 minutes after your comment and his Infowars website is prominently shown on page 1 as the 3rd result[1].

I don't have a Facebook account but it doesn't look like Google Search in particular has deplatformed Alex Jones.

(To the downvoters, this thread's topic is the Columbia Journalism Review story and it's about referrals from Google Search and not Youtube. The comment by liara_k is also specifically about the Google search engine and that's what tucaz was replying to. If my screenshot of Google search engine results does not contribute to the discussion, please explain why.)

[0] https://www.google.com/search?q=alex+jones

[1] https://imgur.com/a/KDVBHcJ


This is a false dichotomy. We're not actually required to make this choice. Literally nothing forces you or anyone to use Google. The reason folks flock to their products despite costs and the occasional awkward depreciation is because they execute pretty well and they have one of the best security track records in the industry.

Attempting to co-opt that for "free speech" by injecting stories onto their pages that are more agreeable to a "balanced" interpretation is not a free speech approach.

What's more, many of the headline proposals in this article text (e.g., Kaepernick and Tax Reform) are tough to give the rightward view on without facing direct misinformation, because the politicians on the right have engaged very directly in misinformation about taxes and deliberately tried to intimidate free speech in atheletes (above and beyond what influence the average American has). Saying that any news outlet should make a special exemption for calling these out to be "balanced" is to propose that telling the truth is a liberal approach, and I find that idea pretty repugnant on it's face for a variety of reasons (not the least of which being that it gives way too much credit to the center left of America).

As for Alex Jones, I don't know how many brazen and horrifying lies you need to literally go to court and plead that you're a comedy show for before you lose the right to use the veil of serving the public interest. Is a transparent desire to lie with the intent to deceive not a DQ for being a "journalist" now? At what point DO we say, "You do you, Alex, but we're not a part of this anymore?" And if Alex gets that privilege, are you going to fall over yourself to similarly defend the Democratic Socialists of America and antifa actions? I suspect for most people that is a "No."


The two links you provided were cases where Google acts as the publisher (e.g. youtube). This doesn't apply to the premise of the article, which was specific to search and curation of news outlets.

> Would you rather fight spammers and keep free-speech alive or give it up over to Google and other platforms?

You appear to be mixing search and youtube. If I search for Alex Jones, the second hit is infowars. First is wikipedia.


I'd love to know what knobs are turned at those companies to alter results, it's something of a trade secret I guess.

Just to see for myself, I picked a search that should churn up a guy that they might find irritating and did 10 seconds of anecdotal research.

Search was 'vox day blog'.

Google, Yandex, Startpage return his blog as the first entry (perhaps after an ad). Goduckgo it was the sixth entry. Bing, it never showed up. I got bored after the first dozen pages.

What exactly does this prove? Not being a web/seach engine guy I don't know.

What I'd like to find is a search engine for which I could build a great big list of curated sites with zero results from others. I tend to look up the same things a lot and after a year or two of additions it might be a really nice thing to have.


Neither source you link even mentions google. Yes, please find a lot more. That was not enough to make the point.


Those don't appear to be examples of Google removing content.

Thus if you have more examples, I would be interested.


@deelowe, By using the word "mixing" up you are implying that I have confused two separate things, which I didn't.

They are not two separate things. Google enjoys the status of a platform in all of its products.

The links I provided talk about YouTube and other platforms and demonstrate how they act as a publisher and not as a platform and the submitted article demonstrates how search results are skewed towards a direction.

Can you please point where my argument is flawed?


Your argument is flawed because there was no evidence given of search results being censored. This is the premise of the article; some sort of biased, preferable treatment being given to certain news sites. Throwing youtube and facebook into the mix, which are curated platforms (AKA publishers) and one of which is clearly NOT Google, is disingenuous. Those platforms are not expected to be unbiased in their results.




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