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Google's relationship with publishers and media is usually quite strained – with the latter blaming the tech giant of undermining and even exploiting their businesses.

In Europe, there have long been attempts by large publishers to make money from their content appearing in Google search.

More than this, Big Tech are taking a lion's share of online advertising, with publishing giants losing influence, reach, and revenues.

In an attempt to build bridges, Google has launched its News Initiative, designed to “help journalism thrive in the digital age.”

But these efforts and interactions between publishers and the tech giant are taking place in rather secretive circumstances.

As Jesse Brown writes on Twitter, the rule of one such event held in Canada was that everything said during it was to be “off the record.”

Google didn't bother informing attendees about this before the event. Because “off the record” is an opt-in and an opt-out situation for reporters – i.e., it has to be agreed to in advance, Brown found himself leaving the room.

And because secrecy is probably how Google does things at its HQ, he continued, there was likely no ill intent in the company's omission to inform the participants ahead of time.

On the other hand, discussions taking place in Canada when it comes to fixing the problems of the publishing and news industries, are excluding the public and are being carried out in secret, Brown says.

This conversation is happening between the country's government, tech giants like Facebook and Google, and “legacy news organizations and think tanks.”

And since reporters are either not present or are unable to do their job, the public remains in the dark.

What Brown finds problematic is that the government and tech behemoths are funding a large number of projects – aimed at anything from increasing quality and media literacy, to “witch-hunting” for fake news.

“But government and Big Tech are the two biggest players news organizations must be scrutinizing!,” Brown writes, and urges publishers to think twice before going down this road.

He ends his write-up by noting that Google informed him by email the “off the record” rule was scrapped at the event shortly after he left to allow journalists to report from it – but not to mention any names.


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