The latest investigation of CrossOver, the European project monitoring and analysing recommendation algorithms of social media platforms, has revealed that Chinese state-controlled sources have outnumbered top western media outlets in their coverage of the Xinjiang province in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on Google News.
The study found that when Belgian users of Google News searched for the keyword “Xinjiang,” a significant portion of the content they were presented with was produced by Chinese state-controlled actors. These stories were overwhelmingly positive and omitted any mention of human rights issues in the region, particularly those affecting the Uyghurs.
Among all the sources analysed,13% of all articles displayed about Xinjiang were written by Chinese state-controlled sources, with six of them producing the majority of the articles returned in Google News’ search results. The most prolific Chinese outlet covering Xinjiang was the French language version of the “China Internet Information Center,” an outlet directly run by the Chinese government.
This domination of the coverage by Chinese state-controlled outlets seems to be a deliberate strategy to flood the market with their content in order to dilute the western coverage of the region and avoid discussing the sensitive topic of human rights abuses of the Uyghur community.
The study also found that, for the most part, Google News presents users with content from mainstream media sources from Belgium, France, and the Netherlands, depending on the language considered. However, some questionable sources can be found in the results, such as political content presented as “news” from the PTB, a left-wing Belgian political party, and the French far-right Boulevard Voltaire website.
This report highlights the importance of media diversity and the need for media literacy, as users can be easily swayed by a flood of information from one particular source. It also shows that the representation of news on digital platforms is still heavily influenced by state-controlled sources and that efforts must be made to promote independent and reliable sources of information.
In conclusion, this study provides important insights into the current state of news representation on Google News and the need for a more balanced and diverse representation of information. Users of digital media must remain vigilant and critical of the sources of information they consume.
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