Following a report by The Times that big brand advertisements were appearing alongside extremist content online, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson spoke out against algorithms and online censorship.
Speaking at the Asia society in Hong Kong, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson discussed the recent scandal surrounding brand advertisements and extremist content on the internet. “The embarrassment for these advertisers, naturally conscious of their image, is understandable, but the situation is far more serious than mere loss of face,” said Thomson.
Thomson referred to the algorithms used by Facebook and Google as “Orwellian” in nature: “The word Orwellian is flagrantly used and abused. But when it comes to the all-powerful algorithms of Google, Amazon and Facebook, otherwise known as GAF, Orwellian is unused.” He continued, “The institutional neglect has now left us perched on the edge of the slippery slope of censorship.”
Thomson issued a warning to all those that value freedom of speech, saying, “Regardless of your own political views, you should be concerned that we are entering an era in which the two most powerful news publishers in human history, and I say that again, the two most powerful news publishers in human history, are going to routinely and selectively ‘unpublish’ certain views and news.” Thomson stated, “The obviously grotesque is obvious, but the arguably wrong may be right.”
Discussing the effects of social media on modern journalism, Thomson said, “The digital duopoly [of Google and Facebook] has rewritten the rules in a way that has written much journalism and integrity out of the script. Google’s commodification of content, which knowingly, willfully undermined provenance for profit, and then followed by the Facebook stream with its journalistic jetsam and fake flotsam, have created an ecosystem that is dysfunctional and socially destructive.”
He continued, “Both companies could have done far more to highlight that there is a hierarchy of content, but, instead, they have prospered mightily by peddling a flat earth philosophy that doesn’t wish to distinguish between the fake and the real because they make copious amounts of money from both – for them, free content has been free money.”
Thomson’s speech can be read in full on the MediaShift website.