New Google right to reply feature sparks controversy

August 9, 2007 at 10:07 am Leave a comment

On Tuesday, Google announced that it was trialling a new feature that gives people in the news a right to reply to a particular story. Here’s an example. Unlike existing comments sections on many news sites, the identity of the commenter is verified by Google and that person must either be mentioned in the article or affiliated with an organization mentioned in the article. Many are welcoming it as an opportunity to have their say that has been denied by the evil mainstream media or to correct glaring inaccuracies. Of course I have no problem with the concept of right to reply, but in my experience as a PR professional, it’s far more common that companies just don’t like an article than it is that the facts are wrong or a person is actually misquoted. It strikes me that the service could be misused as another way to present an organization’s point of view to the world without submitting to any kind of critical filter.

Some people also see the move as the first step towards Google’s creating its own news content. And TechCrunch alleges hypocrisy because Google is not allowing other news organizations to crawl that content or republish it, even though that’s exactly how Google News gets its news. It means that not even the originator of a news article could display the responses to that article. And that doesn’t really seem fair, does it?

I hope that Google will change its policy in this regard, and that people and organizations will use the service responsibly as a right to reply, not a platform for propaganda.

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Entry filed under: Media, PR.

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