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Naver’s incomplete reforms

May 10,2018
Top internet portal Naver declared it will stop editing news that appears on its site after its neutrality was challenged amid a mushrooming online media manipulation scandal.

To avoid such manipulation in the future, it will no longer publish news headlines and instead restrict its authority by directing users to publishers’ news sites from October instead of carrying news articles after annual payments. It will also remove the portion of its homepage that shows the most popular keyword searches.

On the surface, the reforms on news policy by the leading domestic search engine reflected most of the demands by news publishers, politicians and concerned citizens.

But its announcement hides a larger design to influence individual media outlets. News will be removed from the home screen, but there will still be a news section. Users won’t notice any change as they mostly find articles by going into the general news, entertainment and sports sections.

Its new news policy also raises controversy. Naver said it will carry edited versions of stories from original publishers and a separate news feed section customized by its own artificial intelligence software.
News publishers inevitably will have to compete to wield more influence through Naver as they need to attract a loyal readership by October when they are to be picked by the Naver AI software.

Moreover, which algorithm the company will adopt also remains to be seen. Under the pretext of customization, the news platform could be easily swayed by popular tastes and become more prone to manipulation.
Instead of coming up with makeshift actions, Naver must take fundamental steps to stop the manipulation of online opinion and ensure the neutrality of the news it carries.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 10, Page 28