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November 18, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:46am

Rupert Murdoch hits out at Google and Facebook over ‘censorship’ and ‘algorithmic’ bias

By William Turvill

Rupert Murdoch has accused tech giants of trying to “silence conservative voices” and “censorship”.

Speaking at News Corp’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday, the company’s executive chairman also took a swipe at former president Donald Trump.

“For many years, our company has been leading the global debate about big digital,” he said. “What we have seen in the past few weeks about the practices at Facebook and Google surely reinforces the need for significant reform.

“There is no doubt that Facebook employees try to silence conservative voices, and a quick Google News search on most contemporary topics often reveals a similar pattern of selectivity – or, to be blunt, censorship.”

Google has previously denied similar claims, saying its algorithm is “applied universally to the corpus of news pages online and ranks them accordingly”. It has also said that distorting results for its own political purposes “would harm our business and has no bearing on how search works”.

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News Corp has been a long-standing critic of both Google and Facebook. But, over the past year, it has signed major cash-for-content deals with both companies, through the Google News Showcase and Facebook News schemes.

Murdoch also spoke about alleged collusion between the two companies, which together dominate the digital advertising market. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

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He said: “Let us be very clear about the consequences of that digital ad market manipulation. Obviously, publishers have been materially damaged, but companies have also been overcharged for their advertising and consumers have thus paid too much for products.”

Murdoch, 90, said the issues surrounding the duopoly “highlight the fundamental need for algorithmic transparency”.

[Read more: Ofcom warns that secret tech giant algorithms may be bad for media plurality]

“The idea falsely promoted by the platforms that algorithms are somehow objective and solely scientific is complete nonsense,” he said.

“Algorithms are subjective and they can be manipulated by people to kill competition and damage other people, publishers and businesses.”

On US politics and the former Republican president Trump, Murdoch said: “It is crucial that conservatives play an active, forceful role [US political debate], but that will not happen if president Trump stays focused on the past. The past is the past, and the country is now in a contest to define the future.”

Photo credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

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