What's Up with Google News and Centcom.mil's Access to It?

ANSWER: Nothing satisfactory, as far as the company is concerned. Google has responded, but generically, and poorly. Meanwhile, press releases that verge on being pure pap are routinely displayed in Google News results.

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Background: This post is the latest relating to attempts that began here to get to the bottom of why all but a very small portion of news items published at Centcom.mil and its affliated sites are NOT being found or displayed by the Google News search engine. More background is here, here, here, and here, but this post should stand on its own for those who are new to the issue.

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I received this e-mail from Google News early Thursday evening (link supplied by Google News was made clickable for this post):

Hi Tom,

Thank you for your note about Google News. We apologize for our delayed response. Dan passed your email on to our User Support team so we can assist you. Please be assured that Google News currently includes the news site you mention. You can find articles from this publication in our results at the following link:

HERE

Additionally, please be aware that Google News doesn't currently include multimedia content, such as audio or video files. Google News offers a news service compiled solely by computer algorithms without human intervention. There aren't human editors at Google selecting or grouping the headlines, and no individual decides which stories get top placement. While our news sources vary in perspective and editorial approach, their selection for inclusion is done without regard to political viewpoint or ideology.

While we aim to include as many sources as possible in Google News, we can’t guarantee the addition of all articles and sources that are submitted to us. We appreciate your taking the time to send us your suggestions for how we can improve this service.

If you'd like more information about Google News, please check out our Help Center at http://www.google.com/support/news/. Thanks again for taking the time to write.

Regards,
The Google Team

"The Google Team" totally missed and failed to respond to this very clear e-mail's main points, which were:

  • That the ONLY Centcom news being picked up by Google news is the tiny fraction relating to the Horn of Africa, as shown here and confirmed last night:

GNsearchCentcomMil120906

GNsearchMNF120906

  • I suggested inclusion of these sources roughly 10 days ago, and they have, obviously, not been added. Why not?
  • That Centcom press releases are being treated as blog posts and not as news by Google. And even those results are about four days behind what Centcom has at its press releases page. Why?

I sent this response to Sonya Boralv in Google in Global Communcations & Public Affairs yesterday afternoon (about Noon PT). At the time, I was under the mistaken impression that she may have been aware of the above e-mail. At this point, I'm not certain, but she now has that e-mail's contents regardless (some links were added for reader convenience):

Sonya,

The "forwarded" response ..... which I believe may have been passed through you and originally authored by someone at Google News, is incomplete, inadequate, and is technically in error.

I would be pleased to discuss those inaccuracies with you by phone (preferably) or e-mail (if you insist), or better yet, if you think it would be helpful, to speak directly with a named person in Google News.

Please be advised that GN is being perceived in a significant segment of the blogosphere, and by a small but growing percentage of the American public, as willfully preventing our military from getting its news out while at the same time allowing the fluffiest of PR releases (unrelated to the war) and those who support the enemy in Iraq (e.g., aljazeera.net) full Google News access. I'm not ready to say that this is the case, but I get closer with each passing day, and would appreciate anything you could validly do to persuade me that this is not true.

If I were forced to post based on what I have now, I would have to say that GN at a minimum hasn't done the technical work required to substantively respond to my original e-mail (which is posted here at Bizzyblog.com), and seems disinterested in resolving the larger questions.

I look forward to speaking with or getting a reply from you. I have also left a VoiceMail message for Nathan Stoll, who is the News Product Manager according to a recent blogpost at Google's corporate blog.

This e-mail will become an Open Letter post at BizzyBlog.com tomorrow unless I hear from someone by the end of the business day (CA Time). The phone number provided is my wireless number, which will not leave my side until late this evening.

Regards,
Tom Blumer
BizzyBlog.com

If you didn't click on the "fluffiest of PR releases" above, here's another chance -- it's important to understand the "oh-so-crucial news" that Google News is allowing to be included while it denies (actively, passively, or negligently -- that is yet to be determined) almost all of Centcom to get equal treatment with the official news service of the enemy.

Or maybe my priorities aren't straight, and the announcement of "Rihanna as Brand Ambassador for Chocolate by LG" really IS more important than the military's side of the news out of Iraq and Afghanistan. (/sarcasm; if you somehow missed out on these all-important matters, Rihanna is a singer, and Chocolate is a phone.)

The problem is exacerbated by what has been learned in the past few months, as it has become obvious to anyone with eyes that the supposedly "objective" news agencies -- shown to have used fauxtography (here's an Iraq example) and fake sources -- are, with full Google News (and Yahoo! News) search-engine access, assisting the enemy in promoting their propaganda line. The military's responses, when they occur, do not have such access.

Alo at Brain Shavings is working the technical end of the situation with Centcom, which, to be very clear, deserves a lot of flak for not being more proactive in ensuring that they get the news-search visibility any fair-minded person would think they're entitled to. Alo is reporting and has sent me copies of e-mails showing that some progress is being made addressing technical things that he has more knowledge of than I ever will.

We will, I believe, have something with definite conclusions and judgments to report early next week, regardless of whether I hear again from Google.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.