Recently, Microsoft announced that NewsGuard, a service that has helped over 500 news sites improve their reporting and journalism methods and employs professional journalists to create consumer-friendly ratings of the trustworthiness of news sites, will be available by design, but not by default, in its Edge browser for iOS and Android. Although NewsGuard has been available as an extension for the desktop version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge for some time already, we believe that Microsoft’s latest move is a positive step in the increasingly important mobile news market.
The promotion of diverse viewpoints has been the cornerstone of United States media policy over the last 100 years. In November 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg published an article that delineated the algorithm that Facebook will use to disincentivize hate speech. Although Zuckerberg’s proposal is a laudable step for content moderation, it may be neglecting the value of exposing people to diverse views and competing sources of news. As we debate moderation issues, platforms should consider not only the prohibition of hate speech, but also the affirmative exposure to broader ideas and perspectives. The Federal Communications Commission’s implementation of the diversity principle on radio and TV, explored below, offers some valuable lessons here.
This blog post is a sequel to Fix Media Not, Just Just Social Media Part -- 2, and part of our continuing series on platform regulation. Part 1 rejected the argument that the current crisis in journalism (both the crisis of the business of news and the crisis of trust in journalism) is strictly the fault of digital platforms. To the contrary, a series of bad business decisions starting in the 1990s contributed hugely to the financial collapse of traditional print media and the general “dumbing down” and partisan fragmentation in the news. Part 2 placed the current crisis of journalism in historical context, observing that for over a century the evolution of new communications technologies has time and again dramatically reshaped both the reporting side and the business side of journalism. Social media is no exception to this cycle, and coverage of Ferguson in 2014 provides valuable lessons for how the nature of reporting news can successfully leverage social media platforms in positive ways.
This blog post is part of our long series on platform competition, and a sequel to Part V: We Need to Fix the News Media, Not Just Social Media -- Part 1, which noted the decline in the quality of journalism and the increasing public distrust of traditional newspapers and broadcast news. While the following post acknowledges that there are real information problems triggered by social media platforms, including extreme headlines, hyper-partisanship, and radicalization, it proposes that the underlying distrust with the news industry should be addressed first. To do so, PK Senior Vice President Harold Feld calls for a policy intervention to repair the reputation of journalism and to adapt journalism to the digital age, while incorporating the positive power of platforms.
Focusing blame Google and Facebook for the decline of in-depth news reporting and print journalism ignores the real and long-standing problems that lie at the heart of our troubled relationship with corporate media. Insisting that these companies should fund existing corporate media, or that we should solve the problem by allowing even more consolidation, would be a disaster for democracy.