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Portal problems

Dec 14,2017
As controversy over fairness in news editing continues, portal sites propose AI as the solution. At the National Assembly’s policy discussion session on portal news on December 7, Naver claimed that it would overcome the controversy over biased editing with a fully automated news arrangement based on an AI algorithm. Daum also proposed a similar measure.

However, experts say that AI cannot be the primary solution. Hwang Yong-seok, professor of media communications at Konkuk University, said that an algorithm can actually threaten the fairness of the news. For example, the algorithm that makes customized recommendations will only deliver news that suits reader’s opinions. Rather than offering diverse public opinions, it will aggravate biased perspectives.

Portals also acknowledged the limits to a degree. At the discussion session, Naver executive Yu Bong-seok said that AI algorithms cannot be considered completely objective and various external experts will participate in the news article arrangement as a forum. Kwangwoon University media and information professor Lee Jong-hyuk said that the attempts to provide news-based services like ranking news based on number of readers’ comments and introducing “summary bots” fundamentally infringes users’ right to choose. Even if portals do not intentionally manipulate public opinion, anyone can participate online and certain interest groups can easily meddle.

Experts propose two solutions. If portals continue to have the lead in news supply, they should be managed and supervised to the level of media companies that produce news. The other solution is to revamp the system so that all media share the initiative in news supply and social accountability. The “external link” system is an option, where users go through the portal but will have to read the news on the media company’s website.

In the current structure of materials being provided by portals and media companies relying on portals, most media companies only focus on producing news that suits the taste of the portals. The portals will be blamed for leading opinion manipulation. In the end, when portals do their job properly and the media focuses on journalism, both entities will be able to restore trust from the users.

While there are other pending issues such as the improvement of profit structure, portals and media need to ruminate with long-term visions. Appealing to AI and rushing for changes won’t solve the problem.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 12, Page 37

*The author is an industry news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.