Richard Gingras on The Open Mind: News, Disinformation, and Free Expression
I'm. Alexander, Heffner your host on the open mind on the day of this recording, our guests. Distinguished, public, digital. And new media executive, news, Geist organiser Google. News vice-president. Richard Gingras. Announced. A 25 million dollar investment to expand. Support, for the news ecosystems. Long-term. Success, in online video. Specifically. To improve the news experience. On YouTube, including. Features to give viewers more context. On issues, that, have been subject, to misinformation. Richard. Oversees, pages, that connect more than a billion unique readers each week, articles. From journalists, in 72, countries, 45. Languages, and more, so grateful, that, you join us here today thank, you thank, you it's a pleasure and another. You. Just came from an event, where. You, told journalists. And your fellow Googlers. That. You. Wanted to enshrine, google, news and, information. That's disseminated. Via google. Protected. From disinformation, and misinformation by. Investing, those dollars. There. Is an urgency, because we are told by. Scholars, like Zen tip to Fiji and others that. The algorithms. Of, Google. Of YouTube. Are. Engendering. Cycles, of disinformation or, misinformation how are we gonna address, this, fundamental problem. Well. You know there are there are obviously many, challenges, I think addressing. Or very, new world today and I think it's important. To to. Set that stage we, live in a dramatically, different world, we. As human beings consume. News and information in dramatically, different ways interestingly, consume. More news and information than, ever before but. For many many more sources right. I mean the Internet in effect put the printing press and everyone's hands there's, more knowledge, and information available. Than anyone and, has ever been the case in the history of civilization, at. The same time of course as, is the generally the case with free expression there, is also bad, information, out there what people might refer to as misinformation, and, disinformation. So, clearly it's in our interest I think it's in all of our interests, for that matter to. See how can we address, the, evolving. Ecosystem of, news and, specifically. From Google's perspective. You, know what can we do from our position, in the ecosystem. Indeed, as an operator of. Extremely. Popular services. Like Google search, Google News, YouTube. To. Use our capabilities. And know-how, to help put the ecosystem, in a better place and what, is the central, challenge right, now in, protecting. The, integrity of fact on YouTube. And Google more broadly well. In fact I think there are many dimensions, to that as well. You, know and it starts frankly. Even, with the with. Efforts, to help educate, our own populations. About. How they make better determinations. In what they trust in don't trust media. Literacy, is more important, than it's ever been and, not just in schools right that's, an important element how, can we at, Google with. Google search with Google News, do, our continuing. Best efforts, to make sure that we're not surfacing. Or recommending. Information. That is. Inaccurate. Or not to be trusted, but, there are challenges there to which we could get into Google, search is a search tool after all it's designed to help you find information, including. The information in the darker corners of the web but. The third point also is how, do we I have, long believed, in the precept, that the, best way to fight bad information, is with more good information so a big, part of our efforts with the Google News Initiative and one component, was what we announced this morning with YouTube was, how, do we enable the ecosystem. Itself news, organizations. Both legacy existing. News organizations. As well as new digital, news organizations. To. Evolve. What they do to, produce good. Quality journalism, such. That we can have that in place we, as a society Google. As part of its results, in search can. Have that information available, to users too helped them, be in a more informed, place and how can we help them, we. Can help them in many ways I think frankly, and again on all of those dimensions we can help with media literacy we, can help in our Institute, each of our institutions, I think deserves, at this point a reconsideration.
Of, Their role in today's broad. Information, society. Right. As, you and I have discussed I think the, most significant. Question, facing us today and, I. Say us in the global sense is, how. Do open, societies. And open. Democracies. Continue. To thrive. In. An environment of unfettered, free expression right. We've never had truly, unfettered. Free expression as, I said a printing, press in everyone's, hands that's a remarkable, thing I don't think any of us would want to whine back the clock on that we put the First Amendment in everyone's, hands, it's. What allowed the worldwide web to become what it is to, be such. An extraordinary resource, of information for, people around the world wrong from subjects, ranging from news to medical, information health information, so on and so forth right that's. Extraordinary. But. In consequence. Of that in consequence, of the fact that people now can find information to, suit their own perspectives. To, suit their own biases. And, I think it is, ultimately. Upon, us all as institutions. Whether they be technological. Companies technology companies. Like Google, or, news. Institutions. Or governmental, institutions. To think how. Do we evolve what we do to. Address these challenges, how. Do news organizations, evolve, their. Adherence, to the norms of journalism, to help people understand, what is indeed fact-based, information versus. Opinion, versus perspective, right how do we at Google search in Google News do. Our best to sort through that so. That we can give our users as I like to put it the tools and information they, need to, develop their own critical, thinking about a subject and form what I hope will be their more informed, thoughtful. Conclusion. About that and to do that in an assiduously April. Go away all. Not. Simple. Questions, in Google, News you want. Verified. Sources. And that, continues, to be the aspiration. That if you are discriminating, against, all the, other pieces, of information that if you google, a particular, term person. Idea that, if you click news, instead. Of a more wide-ranging, search that it will give, you the news and, that's isn't. That really important, to preserve. There. Are many things that are important to preserve as you point out you. Know we live in a society in the United States that has, constitutionally. And. Extraordinarily, well. Crafted. Principle. Of free expression in the First Amendment I, would, say globally, at the far extreme in terms of free expression there are many countries obviously that constrain, expression, significantly. So. In, that regard we're, at the extreme which also means that we're, very accommodating. Of. Information, that is information that all of us in our own way are uncomfortable, with in fact you know if you believe in the First Amendment then. You have to accept, the fact that there will be expression. You don't like America. Has a distinctive. Climate, that protects, constitutionally. Authorized. Speech in effect, most, anything is authorized, from the users perspective it, can, be most counterproductive, to society. And still, it's something that you may find in a Google search but. Do we want those, dark.
Corners, Of the, web to be highlighted, in news. Well. Yes, as you point out I mean actually the the First Amendment, guarantees. Unauthorized. Speech and, in, truth which, means yes we will have bad speech, I. Think in terms of, you. Know obviously, when people come, to Google search or come to Google News, they're. Looking, for what they hope will be the right answer you. Know in many cases we. Know the right answer if you ask us how tall is Teresa May we'll come back and tell you she's five feet nine inches tall, but, obviously on so many questions, and so many issues there is no singular, right answer and so. We, see it roll again how do we give people multiple. Perspectives. Muchel sources, of expression, so that they can come to their own opinion. What. We're very cautious of as to. Things we want to on the one hand, do. As great a job as we can at surfacing, authoritative, information from, authoritative, sources right. With. Each one of those words chosen. Particularly. We. Want to do that at, the same time as I pointed out it, is a search engine for instance you should be able to find even the bad stuff and often you can you. Know the example I sometimes use, is, you. Know if you do a query for peach pits as a cancer, cure then. You will find documents. Out on the web that say yeah, maybe it can be in. Fact maybe some sites that want to sell you the powder because. Guess. What there doesn't happen to be some recent, fresh articles, from the New York Times the New England Journal of Medicine saying, oh maybe it doesn't right. You will find this stuff and. We are we're also cautious, in recognizing. That in serving that role of being a search engine and serving. That role of, identifying. Authoritative, information we. Also don't, want to be the ultimate determinate. Errs of what is acceptable, or unacceptable free. Expression. Right. I think, that's a very very important, distinction for us to make do. Our best to surface the best possible, information that's, out there as we can determine but. Allow you to find anything, but. You were saying to me before, that you, visited, countries, Singapore, Mexico, that. Each have their, own character of. Speech, and discourse, that they seek, to preserve. Mustn't. We preserve, a character, in our discourse too that is. Unbelie--. Well. I think we as a society, obviously. I would hope that we would strive towards a society, with cultural, norms, that are those you suggest. But, I. Hear, to I want, to be cautious and clear, that. It's not the, role of any particular, tech company or Google to decide what the societal, norms are, or, not. You. Know actually, when I talk about Google search the, way I've phrase. It around the world is find anything, that's findable, in the corpus of legal, expression. Because. In different parts of the world what legal is different, right, in Germany, for instance, suggesting. That the Holocaust did not happen, is against, the law right, we obviously. We. Obviously respect. That in Google search results in the United States the word truth isn't in the First Amendment, right. So, here too we're very careful at. How, we put, our thumb on the scale to determine what, is appropriate or inappropriate, for. Citizens, to find and consume, from. Information online but there are many dimensions, of this you, mentioned monetizing. Content yes, we have for instance we have add platforms. That are used by 2 million publishers, around the world we. Do make our best efforts, to make sure those tools aren't, being used. By. Producers of content who, are misrepresenting themselves, or, misrepresenting. Content, for being something. That it's not so. We can in different parts of our business, operate. In different ways to try to have an effective, influence, on the ecosystem, but. At core it really it's appropriate, for it to reflect society. As it is right, and so the, argument would be that in, order, for. The. American humanity. To. Be reflected. As. In. The German example. The. Law is, what. You ultimately will. Heed as it relates to free expression and. If, there is a legal. Statute. That. Is ratified, that. Bans. Certain. Speech whether. It's the, KKK. Or. Any. Particular hate, group then that, speech would not be authorized, and Google, and Google News would heed that accordingly, so, it takes it takes steps proactively, from society, to then reflect, what. May or may not be permissible on your platform that's true and of course that always gets into questions for a society, for an individual, society, our own for instance, again.
The First Amendment here is very broad right. Hate speech for instance is a very, very high bar for what is considered hate speech in the United States so, theoretically. You. Know one could attempt to pass laws that constrain, free expression a lot of people would obviously argue, with that because they would fear it's a slippery slope what. Do we say as acceptable, versus not to, that end, how can your current, project. Expand. On sort. Of the better angels, of our discourse. In providing. People context, you see now on Twitter and Facebook and. In. Google platforms, that Wikipedia. For instance is integrated. And so you have, a more reliable stream, of information and you can also see whether. That indexed. Google outlet, is in, effect verified, beyond. What, we perceive, is really the important, verifications. That were needed during the 2016 campaign and we're absent, what, next, well. I think as you point out you. Know many of our efforts have been how can we collaborate with the industry, with, the news industry with the journalism community to move things forward. The, one key effort that. I was engaged in founding, as an effort called the trust project, run, by a brilliant. Woman by then Emma Sara Lee Lerman and it's an effort of the journalism, community to basically reconsider. The. Norms, and how those norms, are presented, to users. You. Know it asks the basic question, in a, information, world, as chaotic as ours shouldn't. I have a better, sense of why this, piece of information should. Be deemed credible would. It not be helpful for me to have a better sense from a news organization as. - is this an opinion piece or is, it fact-based coverage, what, do we know about the author what, about the author would help me get comfortable, that they might know what they know expertise. Matters, expertise. Yields Authority, so, we do think that there are institutional. Steps that can be made as, institutions. Organically. To, better address what. Journalism, is, how, it presents itself, and thus. Obviously. From, Google's perspective allow. Us to do a better job of understanding, what. Is fact-based. What's opinion, how do we present that to users such that they can have a better understanding, of what it is they're consuming, and how, do we transcend, from users, to citizens, in the engagement, and how, do we do that well. To, me it comes back down to journalism, again and our roles certainly, in the ecosystem, as well but, you, know there are many definitions of, journals and my favorite, definition and my personal, definition of, journalism is how do we give citizens, the tools and information they need to be good citizens, right. How do we give them the knowledge and enlightenment, to. Go to the polls and make good judgments and, there's a lot more we can do right, I feel there's so much more we can do in reinventing. And rethinking, what journalism is, I'll, give you an example data, journalism, I think has enormous. Potential. To help us have a better sense of context, about stories, all, right too, often today you, know I'll give you an example last. Year we had the unfortunate attack. On the British Parliament all, right our cable, news networks here went wall-to-wall four to three days in the coverage of this event sad event four, people died on each, of those days in the United States there were mass murders, of four or more people that didn't get covered.
How. Do we give our, citizens, a sense of context, about what's important, and what's not how. Do we give people in our communities, for, instance an understanding. Of the key metrics of their communities, beyond, the weather for, them to understand, to what extent is crime an issue or graduation. From schools an issue or air quality an issue or housing. Costs, an issue so, that when they go to the polls they're, going to the polls informed. And ready, to vote about, issues that really, matter to their community, not, based on perspectives, that were driven by fears well those salient. Details, it is, in your discretion, and due diligence to elevate, them for, Google. Readers. Oh my gosh and I would agree I would love to do so if you are doing so and we are we strive to do more and, part, of it is again is how do we simply evolve, and I, say we the. Community of journalists, the publishing news organizations. And so on evolve, their own practices, how do they get more data into their coverage, so, that when they cover an incident, they. Actually give you the context, that says this. Is not a one-time thing this happens a lot it's an issue we should consider or by the way this is anomaly, right. I mean, news by definition, tends, to cover anomalistic, events right. There notable, because there are nominal istic events but. Data and statistics, can help us get, a sense of is it an anomaly or is it not do I need to be concerned or not in terms of engagement jay rosen says the most important, words to. A, journalist, or to a reader are, help, me investigate, and, I think that's a, piece of this, too so. That Google and, those. Other social networks, that are, the aggregators. That. Are the hosts of this information, are not. Viewed as a a. Non. Engaging. Party, but are, interactive. With readers. And citizens, I think that's very true and I mean people and even I think Jay sometimes use that term in different ways help, me investigate help the journalist investigate, the problem because that too can be a factor is, this a problem in your community, help us understand, its true nature but.
It Also can mean how. Is that corpus, of news information, how does Google, in representing, that corpus, of news information is. It giving users again, the tools they need to investigate. And understand, an issue and, what do you find to be the unifying, need on the part of journalists, in Singapore, Mexico. The Scandinavian, countries that you visited recently is there, an overwhelming, unified, need. Given. That these, tech platforms have, in effect. Co-opted. The news industry, or, at least are the hosts of the, news content, well I would I would disagree on the notion of co-opted, but I think the key thing is to understand. How. Dramatically, the world has changed and why. Has changed, and how one might respond, to that right. How the business, models change why of the business models change how, do information, consumption, practices, how have they changed and, therefore how. Do I need to think about how I present, information to, them going forward as, I said these are culturally. Significant. Impacts, that we're seeing and we, can't address them until we understand, them that to me continues, to be the biggest challenge we're 25 years into the internet and our, level of understanding is, still significantly. Low not surprisingly. Right, I mean there was a there was a, sociologist. In the early 50s who. Who surfaced the notion he said with any technological change. You know the inventors, of that technology had a particular, purpose, in mind but there are often secondary, consequences. Always. Secondary, consequences, and he said there is always a cultural, lag. In. Our understanding of the impact, of technology, and, that certainly has been the case with the Internet right, is we're experiencing. That cultural, lag between the, idea. Of putting the printing press in everyone's hands and that, true impact, on our society in both positive negative, ways how, it changes marketplaces, for information, how it changes marketplaces, for ideas I want. To return to the central. Issue we started with which was the algorithms. That do, produce, a vicious cycle sometimes on YouTube of misinformation. And, sometimes. Hate, mongering or bigotry associated, with, particular. Users. Of YouTube. There's a campaign, sleeping, giants, that wants. To make bigotry, less profitable, and is petitioning, Google and YouTube every day for. Certain accounts, to be removed. Knowing. That you stipulated, what Google's, position is which is much like the position that Jack Dorsey has taken that Twitter. In. That climate. When. We feel like the commenters. Of news, stories have, hijacked the discourse, so that, anti-semitism. Or. Bigotry. Have, they, have equal weight to. Pro-social. Ideals. Tolerance. Understanding. How. Can our audience and. How can you address. The problem, so. That we. Can have the unfettered expression, but, not feel as though. Hate. Is monopolizing. The. Content. I think you, start off with simply recognizing, the challenge and recognizing. By the way that it's a very very complex, challenge, the algorithm, he's mentioned the algorithm, on YouTube. Yes. It will it will look to satisfy, your interest, as a woodworker if I look at a woodworking, video guess what it's going to recommend more woodworking, videos right it's part of the nature of what YouTube is and clearly, that can happen with controversial, content, as well and here. Too we try as best to address that we, try to make sure that people are on YouTube are satisfying. YouTube's, policies, while. Also being careful, not to exercise a particularly, heavy hand on determining, what free expression is or is not there. Interestingly. Troubling. Secondary, consequences. Right, in the last year or so when there have been these controversies. About controversial. Content, on YouTube, right, many major brands, said we, don't want to advertise against, controversial, content. Well. Guess what controversial.
Content, Includes, people sharing, videos about transgender. Rights about. Human, rights about, all kinds of powerful issues, that are also in, the minds of others controversial, and they, don't get funded either because, the big advertiser, says I don't want my ads next to controversial, content, so. These, are very very tricky challenges. Because there are always as I mentioned before there are always secondary, consequences. Is how, do you look to -. Theoretically address, this perceived, ill behavior, and not, untoward, lis address other forms of the behavior that some may or may not think are ill behavior, as well Richard I think of Martin, Luther King jr. the Internet, is vast and, you. Have I think a really. Essential. Role in bending. The internet towards, justice. Not. Barring. Speech. But. Bending. The. Internet towards justice. Can. Can we together. Embark. On that mission, is that I sure. Hope so and honestly, it's the mission I'm on it's. The mission we're on and, for good reason by the way some people asked like why does Google do this right you just want to make friends with the publishing industry or keep your critics from criticizing. Actually. No I mean that's not a bad thing to accomplish by the way but. If you think about our business people, talk about platforms today, and it's a it's a dangerous word because platforms, are very different Google. Google. Specifically, our, platform, is the open web Google, search the. Value of Google search would diminish to the extent there was not a rich knowledgeable. Ecosystem, called the web our ad technologies. Would not be as successful as, they are if publishers. Didn't find success on the web so we have intrinsic. Business, interest to make sure that the open web continues. To thrive and be successful I'm, optimistic, about that I'm optimistic, about the future of journalism the. Future of news the future of open societies. But only if, we all step forward in our own ways and recognize. The challenges, and address them with. Evolving journalistic. Norms with our own evolving, technological. Approaches, to how we address these issues right. And with, our own hopefully. Governmental. And political wisdom. To. Be careful, in what to, what extent we use regulation. To impose, on, these problems right. The biggest challenge, with the whole notion of fake news and, don't get me wrong fake news is not a good thing this information, is not a good thing but, in too many places around the world right now fake. News is simply, a very. Very good attractive. Pawn for. Some politicians. To take steps towards constraining, free expression all. Right there are a lot of people out there looking to very do good do things in the pot good do good things in the policy, arena. But. There are also some, who would just prefer. To say well maybe we should constrain, it you know I don't like those those, independent, journalists those bloggers, over there who are constantly criticizing. Me right. So there. It requires, I think really, thoughtful, judgment, on all our parts technological. Journalistically. In the public policy sphere if, we take that wisdom forward I think we'll be ok I think about sunlight. As that disinfectant.
The. The gods are watching us as we decide. With our. Due. Diligence like, I said before, how. We respond, thank, you. And thanks. To you in the audience I hope you join us again next time for a thoughtful excursion, into, the world of ideas until. Then keep, an open mind please, visit the open mind website at thirteen.org/openmind to. View. This program online or to access over, 1,500 other, interviews and, do, check us out on twitter and facebook @openmindtv, for, updates. On, future programming. Continuing. Production of the open mind has been made possible by grants from an Olmec. Joan, Ganz Cooney Lawrence. B Benenson, the. Engleson, Family Foundation, Alfred. P sloan Foundation the. John s and James L Knight Foundation, William. And Flora Hewlett Foundation. Jo, Ann and Kenneth Welner Foundation, and from, the corporate community mutual. Of America.