Google debuts new weapons in fight against fake news
Tech titan Google is one of the two most visible companies embroiled in the ‘fake news’ scandal that has erupted since last year’s U.S. presidential election (The other is fellow Silicon Valley heavyweight, Facebook). Today’s ‘fake news’ was easily tolerated a few years ago – the internet has long been seen as a haven against censorship, and if that meant conspiracy theorists and others were able to peddle ‘alternative facts’ (to use another currently popular term), it was a price worth paying. However, with many observers claiming that misleading articles published online had a significant effect on that election’s outcome, public opinion has shifted.
Google, which maintains what might be the world’s most popular new aggregation service, Google News, is taking the fight to fraudulent and misleading stories published online. The internet giant is in the process of rewriting its existing search algorithm to demote “low quality” websites peddling “fake” content.
That means, if you frequently blog about Hillary Clinton being replaced by a lifelike robot, or the Queen of England’s secret life as a shape-shifting reptilian alien, you can expect it to stop turning up in Google searches.
Google’s Ben Gomes said in a blog post:
“In a world where tens of thousands of pages are coming online every minute of every day, there are new ways that people try to game the system. In order to have long-term and impactful changes, more structural changes [to Google’s search engine] are needed.”
Amongst the public changes Google is making are the ability to report offensive suggestions for the Autocomplete function and false statements in Google’s Direct Answer box, which will be checked by a moderator. Suspicious file types, hidden text (used to alter web search ranking), and pages that frequently cite unreliable sources will also all suffer demotion in Google’s Search ranking. Perhaps most importantly of all, the company will use fewer bots and more humans to vet news sources in the future.
Google isn’t just taking aim at fake news with this update – the company is also coming under fire for allowing extremist content to proliferate online. This fix should aid in both battles.
Dominion holds Alphabet, the parent company of Google, in its Global Trends Managed Fund.
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