Google News to allow those featured in stories to comment

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google_news_logo.gifGoogle is set to expand its Google News offering by not only providing the headline and excerpt from a wide variety of online news sources, but also allowing those featured in those articles to comment, and have those comments published alongside the article link.

In theory, the system will work by allowing people or organisations mentioned in news stories to submit stories to the Google News team, who will then display those unedited comments.

Initially launching in the US, and rolling out elsewhere if successful, the scheme poses some interesting questions.

Firstly, how is Google going to ensure the legitimacy of those commenting? It surely wouldn’t be very difficult for people to claim to be someone else, in order to post a malicious or misleading comment, particularly (as speculated by Ars Technica) Google likes to use automated systems to run its services, rather than humans.

Secondly, how will Google know exactly who is referenced in each news story, and exactly who is allowed to comment? Google only publish excerpts (though they probably scoop the whole story), but will their system be able to resolve “Gordon Brown” and “the Prime Minister of Great Britain”? And would other members of the Labour government be allowed to comment on a story about their leader? Or just the Cabinet? Or Gordon’s wife?

Thirdly, some European publications are already upset with Google News for publishing their content without permission. I could imagine other publications getting rather hot under the collar if their content is not only syndicated, but people are lured away from the original sites by these additional services.

Having said that, most users of Google News will click on interesting headlines and visit the original web site to read the full story, so it’s really up to the publishers to create compelling reasons for them to stay.

After all’s said and done, though, it’s not difficult for news sites to block Google altogether, if they really don’t want the world’s biggest search engine and information aggregator sniffing around their content.

(Via Ars Technica)

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Andy Merrett