14:25 PM

Google News offers Right to Respond

By Tom Foremski

In March 2007 I proposed that a fundamental right of the Internet should be a right to respond to anything on the web.

There should be a tiny Right to Respond widget or link next to any content. The widget is fed by a central Right to Respond.org server.

If there is a response filed by a company or individual, it will indicate it, in the same way as my Technorati widget found at the end of each article shows readers if there are other blogs mentioning this post.

- Companies would pay to use this service, individuals would have free access.

SVW: The Right to Respond Should be a Fundamental Right of the Interne

Google News has started to offer something similar but related to news stories. If you are mentioned in a news story or have any relationship to the news story Google will publish your response right next to the story. [Hat tip to Chris Knight...]

Josh Lowensohn over at News.com explains:

Users of the U.S. version of Google News will now be able to comment on a story, that is assuming they're somehow involved in it. The process is not for everyone, and in fact requires a lengthy verification process of sending off your comment and credentials to a special Google e-mail address, and later verifying your identity via domain name and an e-mail follow-up from Google staff.

News.com: Google News rolling out expert user comments

Foremski's Take: The verification process would likely be lengthy. News is quickly consumed. By the time a response is approved few people reading the news will see the responses.

Also, this verification process cannot be done by machine because people will spoof it. GOOG always wants to use machines rather than people. Google News is completely published by algorithm. Printed in tiny type at the bottom of Google News:

The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program.

Chris Tolles, co-founder of Topix.com said that Google got the idea from Topix. Speaking at a panel at KQED on Thursday evening, Mr Tolles said that Google would have a hard time trying to moderate comments on news stories.

Corporate advantage

Google could get pre-authorize people to comment on news stories but that would benefit corporations over individuals. It is easier to pre-authorize company spokespeople and machine-match them to a keyword in the news copy.

Individuals, and small groups and organizations, would have a weaker right to respond because their response would not be as timely as that of large business groups. They would have to go through the lengthy verification process.

Google could be trumped

News organizations could potentially trump Google by offering a similar right to respond right next to their news stories. They could pre-authorize people and organizations because they are in early contact with them during the journalistic process.