Alphabet’s Schmidt shines light on why Google can’t beat “fake news”
Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, has spoken about the difficulties the company faces combatting “fake news” in the wake of a spate of mass shootings in the U.S. Trolls online have tried to blame these tragedies on opposing political ideologies – Schmidt thinks they’re subscribing to an overly simplistic notion of what makes something true. How, he asks, can an algorithm determine which of two opposed cultural “facts” (consider, for example, the debate about abortion in America) that do not rely on scientific knowledge, and that are both held by millions of adherents?
Alphabet’s share price has appreciated by 32% year to date
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At the Halifax International Security Forum, Schmidt said:
"Let's say this group believes fact A, and this group believes fact B, and you passionately disagree with each other and you're all publishing and writing about it and so forth and so on. It's very difficult for us to understand truth. So when it gets to a contest of group A versus group B -- you can imagine what I'm talking about -- it's difficult for us to sort out which rank, A or B, is higher."
Schmidt pointed out that questions stemming from these diametrically opposed views are largely unsolvable by an algorithm. Where there is consensus (such as global warming) it is relatively easy. But when ideological differences present themselves, misinformation inevitably slips in.
Schmidt also said he thinks this is a topic that hinges closely on what online societies should be like. He mentioned the so-called “echo chamber” effect on social media. An echo chamber is described as follows: you are a liberal, so you only make friends with other liberal people on Facebook. Consequently, the only opinions you receive are liberal ones, and the only news sources you follow are liberal leaning. As a result, you begin to perceive your own worldview as the “right” and “accepted” view – precisely because you are unconsciously avoiding the people who may challenge it. This polarizing behavior plays into the kind of ideological culture wars Schmidt discusses. His solution?
"Until we decide collectively that occasionally somebody not like you should be inserted into your database, which is sort of a social values thing, I think we're going to have this problem."
Dominion holds Alphabet in its Global Trends Managed Fund.
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