News Corp CEO Robert Thomson (pictured above) has blasted tech behemoths Google and Facebook, labelling them a “digital duopoly” who use their vast power to basically service their own bottom line.
In a speech to the Asia Society in Hong Kong on Wednesday night titled “The Fake, The Faux, The Facts, The Future”, Thomson said Google had used it algorithms to blur the distinction between real and fake news and had created a “dysfunctional and socially destructive” environment for journalists and publishers alike.
Thomson’s full speech has been reproduced here.
“Both [Google and Facebook] 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 raged.
“It is risible, no, no, no, beyond risible, that Google/YouTube, which has earned, literally, hundreds of billions of dollars from other people’s content, should now be lamenting that it can’t possibly be held responsible for monitoring that content,” he said, delighting in Google’s current ad bans for showing ads next to hate videos on YouTube.
“Google has been reactive in their response to controversy, and you do wonder whether they will start to invest more and frankly be more candid about their role as a publisher,” said Thomson. “They claim to be a technology company, and that absolves them of any responsibility of what they publish.”
Interestingly, the federal government’s new media laws – due to be debated in the senate anytime soon – will include caveats that Google and Facebook will have to start paying for content it takes from Australian publishers.
The gripe is that the two can simply reproduce any publishers content for free and then monetise it with ads, while traditional media is weighed down with the enormous cost of producing it in the first place.
“The digital duopoly has rewritten the rules in a way that has written much journalism and integrity out of the script,” Thomson said.
“The only cost of content for these companies has been lucrative contracts for lobbyists and lawyers, but the social cost of that strategy is far higher, as is becoming painfully and thankfully clear.
“It really is time to pay more attention to these algorithms, which are clearly set, tuned and adjusted by the companies to suit their own interests and are far from being objective,” he said.
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