'Google News is a computer-generated news site that aggregates headlines from news sources worldwide, groups similar stories together and displays them according to each reader's personalized interests...
Our articles are selected and ranked by computers that evaluate, among other things, how often and on what sites a story appears online....
As a result, stories are sorted without regard to political viewpoint or ideology and you can choose from a wide variety of perspectives on any given story.'
Agnostic News: Conformity and Diversity in a New Media World
We often read about the explicit ways in which those in power use the media to manipulate public opinion through censorship, 'spinning', and news management. However, each type of media (TV, the Internet, the Newspaper) affects political consciousness and ideology, even in the absence of any editorial control.
Let's look at a contemporary example: These days, more and more news in consumed through aggregators such as Google News. By definition (see above), the headlines on Google News's home page are determined automatically, based on the number of times each story is mentioned in various online sources. So, while in the past a story would become popular because it was important, today, stories become important because they are popular.
In theory, this type of "agnostic news" is ideology-free. In practice, a world in which "Popular is the new Important" means that while the masses have access to more information than ever before, their chances of coming across an opinion that is truly subversive are increasingly low. If they choose to look, they can find almost anything they want; but as passive consumers of tailored-made news, they are exposed to a narrower scope of opinions than ever.
Paradoxically, this may bring about a new form of conformity through diversity which, in turn, serves to sustain whoever happens to be in power. As E.E. Schatschneider points out in the Semi Sovereign People, 'the definition of alternatives is the supreme instrument of power' (summarized in PDF). If the alternative views suggested to the public are by definition those which are already quite popular, the odds of significant change through political action are slim.