Google Sends Man to Jail, Metaphysically

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Investment News wrote up an interesting piece on Google News’ algorithm and its apparent failures. The magazine wrote a piece on a new SEC ruling. This paragraph appeared:

“Mr. Radano, who in the early 1980s was a staff aide to then-Rep. John Breaux, D-La., before Mr. Breaux was elected to the Senate, was charged in 2002 with helping investment adviser Steven Bolla hide from clients the fact that Mr. Bolla had been barred from the industry.”

Fair enough: A parenthetical mention in a news story about John Breaux. He wasn’t specifically the subject of the line. Now, however, when you search for “John Breaux SEC”., you find on the top page:

John Breaux, D-La., before Mr. Breaux was elected to the Senate, was charged in 2002 with helping investment adviser Steven Bolla hide from clients the fact …

breux.jpg

Bloops. Apparently the algorithm knocked out a few important parts without even adding an ellipses or a “[SNIP!]” While this is a fairly rare occurrence and a very specialized case, in our “post fast and loose” news cycle, someone could be seriously hurt by this robotic excision. Context is everything, and aggregators remove the context with a vengeance. I’m down with robots doing my news hunting-and-gathering for me, I just hope once they’re done I’ll be able tell the poisonous berries from the good ones.

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