During an address at the ‘Growing Between The Lines Conference’ in Italy last week, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson claimed it was high time for an Algorithm Review Board to stop falsified news.
Published by The Australian, Thomson’s speech served as a wake-up call to the publishing and media industry worldwide.
Speaking about the industry, Thomson said it had turned into “an ecosystem that has punished the creators and profited disproportionately the distributors.”
For Thomson, 2018 is a time “where sense and nonsense rub shoulders on platforms, and where the click-bait cultivators and search-engine spivs reap bountiful harvests, and where professional journalism still faces an existential crisis in many countries”.
According to the CEO, the biggest issue within the media stratosphere is, a term he has coined, “algorithmic angst”.
“I’d like to highlight one issue, which is very relevant to today’s question about fashioning new economic models for journalism — it is what I like to term algorithmic angst.”
Thomson addressed the way technology within media is being used to manipulate the “most vulnerable” news readers, and only works to disempower reliable news platforms.
“AI will mean that they will know much more about us and we will know much less about them.”
“Their ability to create a growing audience of addicts will be enhanced and the young will be the most targeted and the most vulnerable, as they are already.”
“When the intention of a powerful algorithm is to increase so-called “engagement”, what is the potential for a vulnerable person to be disengaged from society?”
Specifically, Thomson points to Google, Amazon and Facebook’s use of algorithms as a way to both ‘engage’ and confuse readers.
“There has been no serious movement to hold these omnipotent algorithms to account, which is why I think there should be an Algorithm Review Board to get more accountability and transparency from the three dominant algorithms of our day: Facebook, Google/YouTube and Amazon.
“The powerful, mind-altering, behaviour-shifting, mood-changing algorithms are allowed to work their invisible alchemy on our personalities and our societies and our young people.”
“Facebook says that its algorithm will prioritise “trusted publishers” on its feed, who is to judge the level of trust?”
Meanwhile, he claims, “Google has been tweaking its algorithm in ways that seem to be a mystery to even the company itself.”
For Thomson, an Algorithm Review Board will not only tackle fake news, “but also to track the intended and the unintended psychological and social impact of pervasive platforms.”