Unintended consequences is a term of art that comes to mind a lot when it comes the explosion of digital technology and the news. Professional journalism is a bucket of specific skills that translate into contextually correct information upon which people make decisions in their daily lives at work or not. If the information or data is wrong or bad, well, we can imagine that leads to bad results. The job of a professional journalist is not different than say that of an accountant or doctor, it takes skills, knowledge and experience to create that credible news product. Opinions are not professional news by a long shot. Anyone can have an opinion. Anyone can’t produce a professional news product anymore than just anyone can operate or balance a corporate balance sheet. Technology companies are finding out that providing the platform for which information, data, and opinions both professional and personal is a landmine full of potential opportunities for bad actors to act badly. And yes, they have a responsibility to be part of the solving for these unintended consequences. And it is critical they work with professional journalists en mass to do so.
Google has announced a series of initiatives, actions that sound robust, that seem robust. As presented in Yahoo News it includes the following:
- The Disinfo Lab, which combats misinformation during elections and breaking news
- MediaWise, a partnership with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University, and the Local Media Association to improve digital information literacy for young consumers
- Subscribe with Google, which will allow users to subscribe to various news outlets
- AMP Stories, a Snapchat Discover-like product that presents full-screen, multimedia-rich reading experiences on the mobile web
- Outline, an open-source tool from Google’s Jigsaw that lets companies set up own VPN on a private server “
I says seems, because it’s unclear who is involved and exactly how these programs might work. Yet, it is a hopeful step. Credible information is critical always. And we need it badly today.