The Web search giant was hit with a lawsuit from French news agency Agence France Presse, forcing it to start to pull thousands of photos and news stories from its service. Then critics lashed out over its decision to include reports from National Vanguard, a publication that espouses white supremacy. In response, Google said it will remove the publication from its index.
Both are black eyes to Google's theory that computers virtually unassisted by human editors can pick the top stories of the day and beat traditional media at its own craft.
Google News, which aims to best traditional newspapers with mathematical algorithms and robots crawling the Web, has come under fire, as critics urge it to reveal its sources.
The tensions hit on the growing pains of changing news consumption and distribution, and raise questions about the need for standards that go beyond what technology can provide.
Google's own description of the service, which is still in beta after three years, defies the two instances that cropped up this week: "Google News is a highly unusual news service in that our results are compiled solely by computer algorithms, without human intervention."
The tensions hit on the growing pains of changing news consumption and distribution. On the one hand, readers are eagerly
"It's a searchable newsstand, and it's a wonderful source," said Janice E. Castro, director of Graduate Journalism Programs at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and former editor of Time.com. "But you're used to being able to say, 'There's the good newspaper; there's the poor stuff.' In search, it's all the same color and all the same size, and it's not ranked by quality."
"The best is mixed up with things that are far from the best," Castro said.
Google's feet are being held to the fire because it uses its technology to mine the depths of the Web to compile news. Yahoo News, in contrast, searches for news but also forms partnerships with content providers to populate its service. Google declined to comment on whether it has licensing deals with content owners.
In addition, Google News and similar news aggregation sites have become considerably powerful, forcing news organizations like the AFP to rethink their purpose and news distribution strategies. An increasing number of people turn to search as a way to access news, and many publishers have failed to answer