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Old 09-24-2004   #1
Chris Sherman
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Does Google News have a Conservative Bias?

J.D. Lasica has a thought-provoking piece in the Online Journalism review comparing Google News with Yahoo News. Google News uses computer algorithms to identify top stories while Yahoo News favors old-fashioned human editors. Lasica wonders, do Google's automated search results display a conservative bias?

He spoke with Krishna Bharat, chief scientist for Google News, who said he was puzzled by reports that the service has been skewing politically in one direction.

"The algorithms do not understand which sources are right-leaning or left-leaning," Bharat said. "They're apolitical, which is good."

Anyone else observe any type of bias in Google news?

Balancing Act: How News Portals Serve Up Political Stories
http://ojr.org/ojr/technology/1095977436.php

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Old 09-24-2004   #2
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I think its the same thing as with regular search engine optimization...smaller & more opinionated sites usually have less strict corporate policies and are better allowed to manipulate the system...

it does sound like an idea for a fun press release and a fun way to dip into politics

based on some ads I have seen running - which got the author called unpatriotic and a terrorist - I can tell you that on the whole Google is not trying to display some large conservative bias.
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Old 09-24-2004   #3
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It says in the article that its possible that the main stream (more conservative) papers use the name "Kerry" more often in the title of the article, then would a smaller, less conservative paper. They would not use "John Kerry" in the title, but rather "Kerry" to keep it short. Now if you do a search on John Kerry, you come up with a more balanced news reporting from both sides, as opposed to just searching on "kerry".

Last edited by dannysullivan : 09-27-2004 at 07:57 AM. Reason: merged comment from other thread on same topic manually
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Old 09-24-2004   #4
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Lasica wonders, do Google's automated search results display a conservative bias?
No bias, It's just that the majority of news is tainted to the left that something right smack in the middle can only be......right (both meanings of the word are intended).
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Old 09-24-2004   #5
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No bias, It's just that the majority of news is tainted to the left that something right smack in the middle can only be......right (both meanings of the word are intended).
translation = someone is a republican.

the whole liberal media thing is garbage. our opinion of the news is often a reflection of ourselves.

There is significant proof that Republicans have invested way more money on internal communication, creating media, and framing issues.

Conservative used to be a bad word, but the Lewis Powell memo really started to rally the troops and turn things around.
http://reclaimdemocracy.org/corporat...emo_lewis.html

The Kerry / Edwards slogan "A Stronger America" plays right into the conservative frame.

Thus the need for organizations like
http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org/
and books like
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...46455?v=glance
to try to help the left wing compete.

Conservatives are many years and many dollars ahead though. On either side politics is dirty and underhanded. Liberals just fail to communicate and invest properly.
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Old 09-25-2004   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seobook
translation = someone is a republican.
Translation incorrect. Let me clarify

right = correct

right = since something is in the middle or even in distance from the right or left then it is right of a left ward influence. Doesn't mean its republican or conservative it a freaking algorithim with out bias.

That doesn't = someone is a republican

and don't even try and tell me that the main stream media isn't slanted to the left! Especially when you have the mother companies like Viacom and Microsoft in the top 10 campaign contributors to the Kerry campaign. And thats not even all of them. You think with millions invested in a candidate they aren't going to sway the news coverage???

Until I see Rather, Brokaw or Jennings go over Kerry's 20 years of absolutely nothing in the senate then I'll be convinced that there isn't a liberal slant to the news. (I shouldn't say absolutely nothing. He did rename a few federal buildings but that's about it )

Anyways Liberman '08!!!

I'm outa here.
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Old 09-27-2004   #7
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I've removed the posts that were really more Bush versus Kerry than discussion on how they are reflected in news search results.

Please keep to the topic of this thread: are news search results biased in some way? Explanations of how the left or right may influence news content is fine, as long as you keep tying it back into the specific issue of news search results.
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Old 09-27-2004   #8
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A comparison was made between Google's news results and Yahoo's news results, with Google showing more "conservative" news stories than Yahoo. Since Google uses algorthms and yahoo uses human editors, why then is the bias assumed to be Google's and not a liberal biase by Yahoo? Just seems to be a strange tilt to the story.
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Old 09-27-2004   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by St0n3y
A comparison was made between Google's news results and Yahoo's news results, with Google showing more "conservative" news stories than Yahoo. Since Google uses algorthms and yahoo uses human editors, why then is the bias assumed to be Google's and not a liberal biase by Yahoo? Just seems to be a strange tilt to the story.
I think it was more the point that second tier news sites are more inclined to optimize their information for distribution.

Its the same thing SEOs do.

Am I one of the top SEOs in the world? Heck no. Google puts me on the first page of search results for SEO though because I optimize for that. (goes off to watch search results for impending site ban or demotion)
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Old 09-27-2004   #10
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main google news problem

imho the main google news problem is not the "before-campaigns" left/right balancing. This issue is temporary and is directly reflected by the quantity and quality of conservative vs. opposite media coverage. Algorithms will learn and improve themselves. The main google news problem is the lack of reflecting the real news happening around, and this is because, algorithmic wise, it has to rely on multiple sources of news pointing to the same news in order to push it on top. This is why a "fresh news" will not make it into google news, but only after the main news channels have picked it up. This is what makes yahoo news still viable despite human costs
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Old 09-27-2004   #11
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Originally Posted by uioreanu
imho the main google news problem is not the "before-campaigns" left/right balancing. This issue is temporary and is directly reflected by the quantity and quality of conservative vs. opposite media coverage. Algorithms will learn and improve themselves. The main google news problem is the lack of reflecting the real news happening around, and this is because, algorithmic wise, it has to rely on multiple sources of news pointing to the same news in order to push it on top. This is why a "fresh news" will not make it into google news, but only after the main news channels have picked it up. This is what makes yahoo news still viable despite human costs
that is a good point. major stories will naturally get coverage, but many unpopular stories will not get adequate coverage.

in the same way that middle of the road blogs do not get as much syndication as the far left or far right leaning blogs the news is also more likely to get additional syndication if it is overtly biased and opinionated.

smaller stories which are not biased will not show up as often as they should.
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Old 09-27-2004   #12
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Quote:
smaller stories which are not biased will not show up as often as they should.
I'm not sure that I agree with that. I don't think news stories have to show a bias to get decent coverage. IMO Interest and relevancy play the largest role. Personally, I prefer my news without bias which is why I avoid news stories and sources that do show an obvious bias.
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Old 09-27-2004   #13
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I'm not sure that I agree with that. I don't think news stories have to show a bias to get decent coverage.
think of how hard it is to become THE NEWS SOURCE amongst many. certainly the best route is through a lack of bias, but that takes a ton of time investment...much easier and quicker to do well with bias

Quote:
Originally Posted by St0n3y
IMO Interest and relevancy play the largest role. Personally, I prefer my news without bias which is why I avoid news stories and sources that do show an obvious bias.
to be human is to be biased. we usually like what we believe to be unbiased or correct news because it is what makes sense to use based upon our own history and experiences.
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Old 09-27-2004   #14
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Back to the subject... :)

From a programming standpoint how would you go about creating a program that would return News coverage that is ALWAYS slanted one way or the other. (Right or Left makes no matter)

It is an interesting idea, I don't even know where I would start with something like that. I guess maybe looking at sentence syntax to see if one side or the other used the same phrase, spelling or style.

Maybe you could just target keywords like Bush, Kerry, conservative, liberal etc. but I don't see how you would ever be able to tell if the news story slanted one way or the other, without human review.

BTW - If when searching for kerry it brings up more negative stories about Senator Kerry than positive, all that tells me is that the googlies are putting way too much weight on the story headline and not enough weight on the story text.

<added> I do hope the googlies correct this soon, so much weight on the STORY TITLE is not serving up very good results.... Hint Hint.</added>

Last edited by lots0 : 09-27-2004 at 09:33 PM.
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Old 09-27-2004   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seobook
Quote:
Originally Posted by St0n3y
A comparison was made between Google's news results and Yahoo's news results, with Google showing more "conservative" news stories than Yahoo. Since Google uses algorthms and yahoo uses human editors, why then is the bias assumed to be Google's and not a liberal biase by Yahoo? Just seems to be a strange tilt to the story.
I think it was more the point that second tier news sites are more inclined to optimize their information for distribution. "
Even though you are correct Seobook, I think St0n3y hit a completely different point head on... 'liberal or conservative compared to what?' The author's assumption is made that G has a more conservative tilt, validated by her assumption that Y is "on-center". But on what basis does she make THAT assumption. Conclusions of left or right or biased or unbiased depends on your own perspective. What if a left of center researcher is evaluating a left of center Yahoo? Would she assume that Yahoo was biased just like her or UNbiased just like her? My bet is the later.

People often make the assumption that people writing a story about unfairness are themselves fair in their fact-gathering and reporting. This is obviously not the case with this woman though she makes every unsuccessful effort to hide her bias.

This researcher shows HER bias and/or ignorance immediately with the statement, "In newspaper newsrooms, editors often go to great lengths to achieve a semblance of balance in coverage of the two major candidates for president." Okay, right off, this lady is delusional. The NY Times, the LA Times, the Washington Post, and Knight Ridder don't even pretend to be neutral. They are left of left and willingly admit it. The WSJ and a few home town newspapers lean the other way.

Then there is her out of the blue (and completely irrelevant to the story) statement, "What's going on? Have Google's search results been hijacked by Fox News?" How did Fox News get into THIS story? Did I miss something or was it just her intention to throw in a completely pointless slam? Most conservatives consider Fox to be to the left of where they are, and liberals consider them conservative. Again, it's a matter of perspective; but it shows hers.

Her statement, "Yahoo achieves balance in political coverage by using a wide variety of news partners..." brings up some serious questions as to how she formulates her theories. Hmmm... Yahoo's 100 sources vs. Google's 7000 sources. If her contention is that balance is achieved through using a wide variety of sources, then... GOOGLE WINS!!! Yet that isn't the way she sees it.

It also depends on the point of view of the researcher to decide what is a liberal story and what is a conservative story. A story about the conflict in Iraq or Kerry waffling might be fact. But depending on who the listener is, it could sound biased or factual.

Most people that are in the middle 60% of opinion assume that whatever they believe and however they think is equal to the average. It seldom is. Not only do very few people sit on-center, their thinking is situational. Someone left of center on social issues can be right of center on economic ones.

However biased one COULD make the Google code, it is one human step away from Yahoo's human review. Direct human reviews are directly affected by the bias of the news editor. At least the algorithm provides a tech buffer and I'd be more tempted to give the benefit of the doubt to the automated version.

As to which media are which, it is a pretty well established fact, even by admission of the parties involved that (with notable exceptions) liberals pretty much run the majority of print and television journalism and conservatives run talk radio.

Nevertheless, the question of the answer is, "So what?" So what if Yahoo or Google or the NY Times is biased either left or right. Is that not THEIR right? They are private organizations. I don't know where the idea of a neutral press was born, but it's a recent invention and something that is a complete fabrication. The press has no duty to be even-handed... just truthful... don't make up stuff!
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Old 09-27-2004   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Papadoc
or Kerry waffling
true. the reports about certain politicians doing (or not doing) other things are likely true too, but that is not the point of this particular thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Papadoc
Most people that are in the middle 60% of opinion assume that whatever they believe and however they think is equal to the average. It seldom is. Not only do very few people sit on-center, their thinking is situational. Someone left of center on social issues can be right of center on economic ones.
that is how elections are won...find the people in the middle. attach to their sense of values on ideas they agree with you...make those ideas seem important...and have them take those ideas to the voting booth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Papadoc
The press has no duty to be even-handed... just truthful... don't make up stuff!
that is the whole point, if you are not being even-handed and are providing manipulative coverage then that is not being truthful.
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Old 09-28-2004   #17
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bias towards cricket, according to Google CEO

the only bias i ever heard about was towards cricket

as noted by Google CEO Eric Schmidt:
http://kwc.org/blog/archives/2003/20...um_google.html

(however, other bias was towards intl news, which might tends towards a slightly *less* conservative viewpoint, depending on *your* bias towards international news)

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Old 09-29-2004   #18
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Zuckerman is right

Hmmm, the whole article is based on only a single curious search result ("John Kerry") at one point in time, despite the fact that "Kerry" by itself yields more neutral results, so that right away is dubious.

I think Zuckerman's theory is plausible: that the full name "John Kerry" is less likely to appear in the titles of mainstream articles, as well as repeatedly in the body text. I just compared "Bush" and "George Bush," and I find much the same skew in favor of marginal publications.

More evidence for this is that searches that don't involve proper names appear to be relatively balanced. I tried both a mundane public-policy term "charter school" and a more hot-button term "weapons of mass destruction," and the results seem to be fairly balanced, at least to my eye.

Granted, that's a tiny sample, but I don't think there's enough to get it past the curiosity stage.
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Old 09-29-2004   #19
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First, let me say I basically love news.google.com and even attach it to my signature on one political BB I post on.

And let me also say I have no scientificallyh arrived at evidence, just a sort of cumulative feeling.

But, yeah, I, too, have found myself wondering how stories from some minor right wing newsletters and blogs pop up as the 'headline' source in some story sections, where you might, more logically expect a Reuters, AP, WP, NYT, IHT, or other major service or daily.

Sure, I've seen the occasional story from a progressive newsletter or two, as well, but I've had the distinct sense that the NewsMax, Townhall, NetNewsDaily contingent was much, much more heavily represented.

Maybe it's my fondness for Google, but my favorite explanation for these arguably anomalous listings was that those neo-conservative oriented sites had simply figured a way to game the Google news bots...
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Old 09-30-2004   #20
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Zuckerman is right, part 2

A follow-up on similar, seemingly nonpartisan results. Searching today for "Bush" yields a bunch of mainstream reports about tonight's debates, various poll numbers, the President's tour of "ravaged groves" in Florida, release of his National Guard resignation letter, and a comparison of the two campaigns' foreign policy promises.

The only somewhat marginal source I found was "Bush charges Kerry with 'emboldening the enemy'" by "Working for Change, CA," an advocacy group run by Working Assets. (The only other editorial was "For Bush, flip-flops an art form," but that's from the mainstream Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

But I get *totally* different results for "George Bush":

"George Bush or John Kerry?"
Jacksonville Daily News, NC (a mainstream story on the debates)

"Shunning Reality in George Bush's Radical World"
Washington Dispatch (a self-described "objective source")

"World Peace is Declared- George Bush Totally Pissed Off"
Unconfirmed Sources (satire)

"Why We Will Elect George Bush"
One Thousand Reasons, CA ("relentlessly documenting the
failures of the Bush administration")

"George Bush's Fantasy VS One Soldiers Reality"
Daily Kos ('nuff said)

"Does George Bush even know what science is?"
Salon

"FILM BOX Karl & George: Bush's Brain explores Rove's power"
The Hook, VA (review of Farenheit 9/11-like film)

"George Bush urban dictionary definition - a better poll?"
Daily Kos (who identifies the president as a "f**ktard")

"parody/humor: George Bush's resume"
Santa Fe New Mexican, NM

"George Bush is the right guy to protect America today"
The Free Lance-Star, VA (which starts: "You people who don't
want to be Americans if George Bush wins the election are free
to leave anytime.")

But perhaps the most objective way to gauge how marginal these publications are is to see how often a given story is clumped with related stories from other sources -- kind of a conventional wisdom index. In the case of "Bush," it's:

1260, 364, 252, 420, 56, 93, 38, 54, 313, 25

For "George Bush," it's:

55, 0, 0, 3, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 3

So again, the article proves nothing about rightward bias in search results, but does reveal the interesting linguistic artifact Zuckerman describes.
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