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News Corp CEO Targets Facebook, Google, Amazon, Calls for 'Algorithm Review Board'

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A major media company is publicly launching a campaign that would add a level of transparency to the methods by which Facebook and other tech giants display content to their users.

The Hill cited a statement this week by News Corp CEO Robert Thompson in which he endorsed the formation of an “algorithm review board” that would expose any restrictions or preferences in how these companies provide certain content, as well as how those determinations are made.

News Corp is the parent company of multiple major firms, including The Wall Street Journal and publisher HarperCollins, and has submitted an official complaint in Australia against Facebook, Google and Apple specifically.

Thompson’s comments to investors offer additional context to his company’s concern about the often clandestine practices of these tech companies and others. He encouraged exploration of additional government regulation that would allow users to better understand how these companies decide which content they promote.

“The sheer amount of personal data collected by Facebook, Google and Amazon means that governments are rightly considering the establishment of an algorithm review board, which, if properly conceived, would provide the necessary transparency for individuals, clients and competitors concerned about algorithmic abuse,” he said.

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These companies have already been roundly criticized in recent months amid allegations that algorithms were used to shape public opinion or promote certain ideological viewpoints, potentially impacting the 2016 presidential election.

Thompson expressed concern that technological advancements could mean the problem will become much worse unless it is properly addressed in the short term.

“These algorithms are already potent but they are destined to be much more formidable, and their abundant potential to skew news and skew our customers needs to be better understood and monitored,” he said.

In a complaint submitted earlier this month to the Australian competition regulator, News Corp took a related stance, suggesting a handful of tech firms wield far too much influence in the media industry.

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“Digital platforms impose restrictive contract terms and engage in aggressive mergers and acquisitions in order to neutralize emerging competition and extend their market power,” the company’s complaint said.

The arrangement has reportedly resulted in media outlets negotiating directly, and against their interests, with the very companies accused of exerting too much power.

Thompson said News Corp “and other publishers are also in discussion with Facebook, which certainly professes concern about virtue and veracity.”

By properly addressing the root issues, however, he expressed hope that consumers will ultimately come to identify and search out quality content.

“We are confident that a renewed focus on provenance and on integrity will benefit our mastheads, our journalism and our advertising clients, who are learning more each day about the potential dangers of digital,” Thompson concluded.

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According to the Financial Times, the CEO cited a few examples of what he said represents tech firms using their size to grow even bigger and dominate additional economic sectors.

He said Facebook’s recent announcement that it would be expanding its services to include online dating is evidence of “companies which have horizontal dominance and use that leverage to dominate a vertical.”

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
Professional Memberships
Online News Association
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment