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August 9, 2007

Google News To Accept Comments from Those Mentioned in Stories

Google has a new feature on its news site.  It allows individuals who are mentioned in stories to publish comments along side that story.  Google has set up a procedure where anyone mentioned in a story can send an email with contact information to verify their identity.  Verification is necessary before a comment will be published.  Google will not edit the comment in any way, which is interesting should someone provide a comment that defames another.  The statement addressing editing (from the FAQ on this feature):

Comments are not reviewed by any editors, and Google isn't going to change the content of comments, including misspellings or grammatical errors. In addition, we will publish any comments we solicit unless the response is "no comment" or if the comment is a previously published statement that we have already have indexed in Google News.

There are the safe harbor provisions in federal law that protect an online site by not treating them as a publisher.  Those provisions, however, have never stopped anyone from suing (and losing).  Google's probably good on that one by not getting into the editing process.

One of the criticism in the news is the verification process.  People expect real time updates and posts thanks to blogs and other instant publishing options.  I think this criticism is misplaced.  Anyone posting a response would likely make themselves available for easy and timely verification.  A response requires accurate contact information as part of the process.  It also helps Google by having real contact information for the commentator should any statements give rise to litigation.

The most likely immediate use for this is going to come from political campaigns addressing news coverage of opponents.  Think how this would have helped John Kerry counter the press coverage of the Swift Boat (dis) information campaign.  It also helps Google by developing contacts with politicians on both sides of the aisle.  It's an interesting strategy.

August 9, 2007 | Permalink


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