miércoles, 19 de octubre de 2016

The new bred of publishers for the digital era

For those reading this blog, it is nothing new that Internet is becoming the main source of information for a growing population. Several surveys has confirmed this fact in the last months. On one hand, the Pew Research Centre in its State of News Media 2016 has pointed that 38% of americans get news from digital sources. On the other hand, the Reuters Institute in its annual Digital Report 2016 has estimated that 73% of internet users worldwide obtain news online. 

The evolution towards getting online news could be seen as an expected one in the digital world, but jointly with this migration a new set of news intermediaries are emerging: Social media. Pew Research has estimated that 62% of the americans obtain news from social media sites, while Reuters has calculated that 48% of internet users worldwide has social networks as a news source. More worrisome is the piece of data given by Reuters about the growing number of Internet users that has social media, particularly facebook, as the main source of news. Now, it is only 12%, but this means a 50% growth since 2015.

There is a resistance in social media and digital platforms to be classified as a news media publisher. Nevertheless, the fact is that they are taken editorial decisions regarding which news are seen by their users. Sometimes, they are taken the decisions based on their own principles, like the case of the censorship on "napalm girl" picture. Other times, they respond the demand of governments regarding terrorism fight, altough politicians in UK,  Germany and other countries think social media are not tough enough in this fight.

Algorithms are seen by many people as a solution for the elimination of bias in the selection of news by social media. The Reuters report shows that more internet users trust automatic selection than manual selection (36% vs 30%). However, algorithms have shown its limitations in the selection of news and we should not expect less bias in the algorithms that the bias of their creators.

Social media is growing hub for information in the digital era. Whether the selection is done manually or based on algorithms, Facebook and the others should provide more information and be more transparent on the criteria they apply for the selection, ordering and, specially, censorship of news. Media have been always biased, and technology is not going to change it. We should forget about having digitalisation as the cornerstone for more impartial media, bits should not be an alibi for not giving details on admisible partiality.

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