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Google Looks at People As it Pledges To Fight Fake News and 'Offensive' Content (betanews.com) 173

Google said today it is taking its first attempt to combat the circulation of "fake news" on its search engine. The company is offering new tools that will allow users to report misleading or offensive content, and it also pledged to improve results generated by its algorithm. From a report: While the algorithm tweaks should impact on general search results, the reporting tools have been designed for Google's Autocomplete predictions and Featured Snippets which have been problematic in recent months. Updated algorithms should help to ensure more authoritative pages receive greater prominence, while low-quality content is demoted. Vice president of engineering at Google Search, Ben Gomes, admits that people have been trying to "game" the system -- working against the spirit of the purpose of algorithms -- to push poor-quality content and fake news higher up search results. He says that the problem now is the "spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information."
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Google Looks at People As it Pledges To Fight Fake News and 'Offensive' Content

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  • Google said today it is taking its first attempt to combat the circulation of "fake news" on its search engine.

    That should be easy. Just delete anything said or tweeted by Donald Trump. Viola, less fake news.

    • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @01:02PM (#54299183) Homepage
      better off banning slate, salon, msnbc, foxnews, cnn, breitbart. that would clean up a good 80% of fake news
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Have leftists ever thought about why so many average people are turning away from so-called "mainstream" news sources, and instead choosing to get their news from alternate sources?

        It's actually quite simple: average people see what's being reported in the "mainstream" press, and they just can't reconcile what they're being told with what they're actually seeing while on the job or going about their daily lives.

        Meanwhile, the reports from these alternate sources actually end up being far more reliable. What

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @02:02PM (#54299649)

          Have leftists ever thought about why so many average people are turning away from so-called "mainstream" news sources, and instead choosing to get their news from alternate sources?

          Yes, over three hundred years ago:

          Besides, as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believâ(TM)d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceivâ(TM)d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effectâ¦

          Seriously, look at your own recitation and find the lies and falsehoods in them. There are plenty.

          And yours aren't even new. The anti-immigrant Know-Nothing party was preaching its hysteria before the American Civil War. Civil War secessionists built their cause on a house of lies. Anti-Indian, Anti-Irish, Anti-Chinese, Anti-German, Anti-Jewish, Anti-Russian sentiment was similarly fostered with fraud.

          The question you should ask, is why you think leftists don't know, while you seemingly demonstrate great depths ignorance yourself.

          Or rather, you should answer it.

          • All bigotry is, in general, fostered by fraud and deception, including self-deception. Part of why the mainstream media as a whole has been bleeding credibility is that it's getting easier to check--do you think things like the libelous article in the Rolling Stone would have emerged quite as quickly and publicly before the internet?

            More importantly, people are gaining awareness that this is a thing--journalists are losing the ability to have their readers just take their word for things, and as more peopl

        • by Nethemas the Great ( 909900 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @02:51PM (#54299999)
          Anyone can gin up nonsense to fit a curve. That's what fake news largely is. The biggest error I see in most mainstream media is the assumption that details and context can be omitted. It is far easier to digest a simpleton falsehood compared to reality when the audience lacks the foundational information to understand it. You cannot communicate the complexities and nuance of reality in 30 second sound bites.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      That should be easy. Just delete anything said or tweeted by Donald Trump. Viola, less fake news.

      This should be marked alternatively "funny" or maybe even "insightful" but certainly not "troll".

      It is clear the current president is profoundly dishonest (and before his apologists scream "they are all dishonest", no, they are not the same. Yes, everybody lies, and arguably most if not all politicians probably lie or stretch the truth a little more than the average person ... though with the behavior of Trump s

      • e Democrats in general, and politicians in general, do not engage in the kind of wholesale lying that has come to characterize Republicans of late, and Trump in particular.

        I see your trump and raise you a clinton, a warren, a cuomo and a pelosi

        sorry, you are not correct here

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "profoundly dishonest" How do you know he is more profoundly dishonest than anyone when the major news organizations, online partisan web sites, and the idiots pumping out misleading bullshit every 15 minutes. The MSM publishes provocative headlines that have nothing to do with the actual content of the article. The words could, possibly, may, or would are used because whatever crisis the article is addressing is really just someone asking an open ended question. News organizations and individuals publish i

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Sorry but you are wrong. It will end up being a Trump muzzle because Google is apposed to Trump. Things would be different if Trump supported the TPP and Ha1b programs. Google will filter results based on what's good for Google. Just like once the republicans are finished raping the open internet you will start noticing a speed difference in Google approved left leaning results because ISPs are mostly right leaning. Its a game just like the campaign donations. In the end of the day large corporations will d

      • by SirSlud ( 67381 )

        Yup

      • It's not "an effective fake-news filter", because it would allow things like "It's illegal to read wikileaks" to be viewed while filtering away "Stem illegal immigration" as 'racism'.

        It's the Ministry of Truth, not a filter for facts.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sort of like how MSNBC blamed the recent riots in Venezuela entirely on a Trump campaign donation, and made no mention of the rampant starvation or roving death squads supporting the regime?

      Yeah... Tell us more about fake news, dipshit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why do you think I'm on the fucking internet in the first place?

  • Users can report? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @12:54PM (#54299111)

    So, it's a democratic process to determine what news is fake? Ah yes, the "if we all agree it's not true then it isn't" method of understanding the universe.

    Let's go burn down the observatory so this can never happen again!

    • Truth (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @01:16PM (#54299289)

      The underlying problem is Google is supposed to be a *search engine* It's supposed to show you where to find stuff on the internet. At some point in time they decided to complete with Ask Jeeves and become an "answer engine." Good luck with that.
       

      • by OYAHHH ( 322809 )

        Brilliant insight!

        • It is insightful and about sums up the issue.

          I think a lot of this has to do with (excuse me while I silently vomit as I say this) 'thought leaders' - (or in proper terms) 'influential people' deciding that Google should or shouldn't offer up - from politicians to the heads of certain political, social, or other advocacy groups.

          In so far as Google intends to placate these concerns, it's up shit creek if it just wants to return actual valid results that aren't influenced by such concerns. That ship has saile

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Your reasoning is dangerous. Should we stop letting politicians and the state decide that the world is billions of years old and just let the kids Google it. Whoever spams Google the most gets to decide how old the Earth is and the correct answer on the exam is "my phone confirms 6,000 years".

            Is there really no way we can flag up things like "vaccines cause autism", "the would is 6000 years old" and "Hillary Clinton runs a paedophile ring out of a pizza restaurant" as heavily disputed?

      • Re:Truth (Score:5, Insightful)

        by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @01:41PM (#54299481) Homepage Journal

        The underlying problem is Google is supposed to be a *search engine* It's supposed to show you where to find stuff on the internet. At some point in time they decided to complete with Ask Jeeves and become an "answer engine." Good luck with that.

        It has always been an answer engine, and that's the reason it became popular.

        Back in the day (mid 90s) most everyone was certain that search engines could never be very useful. Lycos, Altavista, etc. weren't terrible, but they also weren't very good, because although they could effectively spider the whole web that just meant that any search matched thousands or millions of pages, and they had no way to determine which of those were the best answers for the query. The "smart money" was betting on Yahoo!'s approach of manually curating enormous lists of links.

        Then Larry Page's pagerank algorithm found an excellent (not perfect, but excellent) way to figure out which of all of those answers were likely to be the best ones. That insight launched Google. It took off precisely because it provided better answers, rather than just returning a list of everything that was on the Internet. A list of everything on the Internet is not useful.

        • Re:Truth (Score:4, Informative)

          by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @03:53PM (#54300423)

          While I guess you have a point that Pagerank was designed to deliver better results, so were all other "search engines" of the time. Pagerank was just a better algorithm than others. But by your definition all search engines back then were "answer engines," since they all were trying to rank results somehow.

          The thing is: back then Google's algorithms were still based on terms actually found in the searched pages. Hence, it was still a search engine. The ranking may have been tweaked, but you were still searching for actual text and actual search terms.

          Somewhere around 2005 or so, it became possible for Google to serve up top hits that no longer contained the literal search terms. At that point it ceased to be a "pure" search engine and became about trying to guess what you wanted rather than just retrieving pages with your text. As the years went by, Google deprecated and screwed up the plus operator, increasingly screwed up verbatim search until it became nonfunctional for people who just want a literal search, and incorporated "personalization" to serve up pages more like other pages you've viewed, rather than what you literally asked for.

          Google hasn't been a functional search engine in about a decade.

          • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

            Oh and BTW, the way you use a literal search engine with thousands or millions of results is to introduce more specific search terms to narrow your search to a reasonable number. Back then people COULD use search engines to find specific content very well that way. I used to be able to use Google to find specific pages again years later if I remembered a few specific unique words or phrases that could get me back to that specific page... I haven't been able to reliably do that in years. As you point out,
          • Google hasn't been a functional search engine in about a decade.

            Perhaps by your very narrow definition. But it's vastly better than it was at finding what people are looking for, which is what they always wanted, regardless of terminology.

            However, it's *not* as good at "keyword regexp bingo" as it used to be. But if you're still trying to use those old-style queries, you're doing it wrong. Try typing complete natural language questions for what you want to find. I find this works amazingly well, even on obscure technical topics which include lots of "keywords" which a

            • Huh? My definition? I was following YOUR exceptionally narrow definition of search engine and actually trying to expand it to cover an additional decade of history. And if you re-read my post, you'll realize that at no point did I say the approach Google has taken is invalid or bad or not useful. What I said is that I don't understand why their new approach NECESSITATED breaking the old search for people who want/need it. Google is now a great tool for answering broad questions with relevant links; I n
      • At some point in time they decided to complete with Ask Jeeves and become an "answer engine." Good luck with that.

        It was shortly after Microsoft made a deal with Wolfram Alpha to do the same thing [wolframalpha.com]. Google had a huge push after that to give answers and such.

    • Google is in a tight spot. If they rank things by purely objective algorithms, they'll be accused of leftist censorship. If they democratize things, there's at least a notion of openness with a hopeful prospect of balance and counterbalance to ensure moderate outcomes.
      • An objective algorithm is pretty much impossible on this topic, at least one that does anything useful. Hate speech itself, for instance, is subjective, so ANY judgment on such will also have to be subjective. Fake news is also a problem as there is no way for the system to know what is not fake in an objective way. Since political bias is so big a component of fake news, you can't really trust any organization as a source as we all have political leanings. You can trust that which is repeated the most,
      • Instead of an objective algorithm, how about a transparent one? Post it (or them) publicly for all to see, so that there can be no allegations of bias (assuming the algorithm(s) is(are) not biased.)

        • That would make results far too easy to game and then the top results will just be whomever understand the algorithm better, not what's searched for.

      • by bongey ( 974911 )

        Except their algorithm is being adjusted to down mod conservative sources http://imgur.com/HM89EbE [imgur.com]. Even using 'Adjust Sources' in Google News , left sites still pop up to the top and are cited many more times. Same thing is happening today, CNN still gets cited more than any other source with the example 'Adjust Sources' . It is impossible to get to that output without a manual parameter that ends up over-riding the user preferences.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Anyone who can get enough of their cult, faith, communist party, SJW, political party together to stop a search result.
      No more comments about Communist party leaders.
      No finding out about Tiananmen Square and 1989.
      No cartoons that make people question their faith.
      From a classic search engine to gatekeeper.
  • Do No Evil (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @12:54PM (#54299113) Homepage Journal
    They are the leaders.
  • Better idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OYAHHH ( 322809 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @12:55PM (#54299119) Homepage

    Google needs to quit pretending and just limit it's search results to NPR, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

    That would fix it.

    • Google needs to quit pretending and just limit it's search results to NPR, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

      That would fix it.

      You're right - that's an equivalent filter.

    • by bongey ( 974911 )

      They pretty much are already doing that. Media Matters of America,PoliticusUSA, and ThinkProgress are considered 'legitimate' news sources(check their 'Adjust Sources'). While they just removed sites like http://www.thegatewaypundit.co... [thegatewaypundit.com] in the last few months. All three of those sites are much worse than the thegatewaypundit at report accuracy. There is no way to add a personal source either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @01:00PM (#54299175)

    I suspect so, and I don't trust Google, or, Alphabet.

    I never asked for censorship on the internet. And an algorithm? A freaking experiment on society.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jonow ( 3524689 )

      Regardless if I think Google can do this effectively and neutrally, I don't think this is the answer. I don't think any service or institution curtailing "fake news" is going to do a good job of it, and even if they do, I don't think it will be effective.

      The problem is people actively seeking support to their view and disregarding anything contrary. By filtering results, you are just ensuring those people go elsewhere for their fake news.

      I believe that real change on this front will only come from a lon

      • Exactly.

        And once people are looking for things they dont want you to know there will be something each user runs into that will stick.

        If you want control over what sticks well you just can't do that if you are driving everybody into a vast randomized process.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    CENSORSHIP!

  • Slipery slope (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @01:02PM (#54299185)

    Great, another self proclaimed judge to "offensive content". I'm sure the automated tools will be great at banning all the bad words.

    I find google offensive, now, ban google.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Unfortunately, if real people say things that are false, then it's still real news to report on what that person said. Especially, if we're talking about people of note. Of course what most people are going to see (especially, if they want to believe the statement) is: Important person says, "Dogs can be milked" ==> Dogs can be milked.

    The problem isn't fake news. The problem is people not taking an unbiased and well-thought-out view on life.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @01:04PM (#54299201)

    What's Offensive today?

  • This is bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JWW ( 79176 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @01:08PM (#54299225)

    Either all speech is protected or none of it is.

    • I'd just like to know WHO decides what is "offensive"??

      And who elected him or her Czar of the Internet??

      Is this the new Hays Code??

    • Google is exercising its right to free speech by not including fake news in its news search.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Either all speech is protected or none of it is.

      Google doesn't have to publish/display anything they don't want to. Free Speech does not mean companies are required to give you a platform to express your views.

      If the Trumpettes don't like that -- they are free to create their own Alternate-Google.

    • Either all speech is protected or none of it is.

      Caveats of threats of violence aside, your speech is protected because you have conflated freedom of speech with freedom from consequences of said speech. If you read the actual U.S. constitution then you will notice it's protecting you from the government. There is nothing that says you are free from the consequences of what you say from other people.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There has been a deadly outbreak of fake news fighters. It appears many wealthy corporations are infected with the sudden urge to correct the news. The long term effect of this infection is currently unknown and it is not clear if the news will ever return to normal.
    Geoffrey over to you....

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Offensive" is not the same sort of thing as "misleading", "false", and "low quality".

  • Google has long offered users an option to filter search results. No doubt many parents and some others prefer this. Why should this be a problem?

    "SafeSearch can help you block inappropriate or explicit images from your Google Search results. The SafeSearch filter isn't 100% accurate, but it helps you avoid most violent and adult content."

  • The only reason Google sucks so much is that there's nothing that sucks less in the search *business*. Maybe a non-profit Search engine is the solution? Academia may be a great way to incubate such a product.

  • Those who object the loudest believe the most lies.
  • Step 1. Find a good set of sources of a variety of fake news. At least one conservative (Brietbart), Russian (RT), and Liberal (Huffington Post) to start.

    Step 2. Set up software to track everyone that regularly reads any of those three as your secret mechanical Turk testers. Everything those people like, post, or otherwise support will be fake news.

    Step 3. Create a solid scoring system based on your testers.

    Basically, use the stupidity of the users against them. Once you find people stupid enough to

    • Mod parent up.
  • Disagree in any way with a liberal snowflake and they are highly offended to point of needing counseling or playing with puppies and kittens.
    Kiss in a public place in the presence of a prude and they are offended
    Be observed eating meat in the presence of a PETA member and they are offended
    the list goes on...

  • by AnalogDiehard ( 199128 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @03:25PM (#54300213)
    Really - the same Google who manipulated their search engine [washingtontimes.com] to bury news that were damaging to the Clinton campaign [breitbart.com] is now promising to protect us from fake news?

    Frankly with Google's record of integrity, I don't trust them to decide for me what is fake news.
  • Just don't let them post news without it being verified first.

    Problem solved.

    Their motivation is to lie to get the click ad dollars. They will do whatever Russia asks them to get the sweet bonus spiff for pushing Russia fake news, since they get both the ad dollars and the Russian extra.

    • ...without it being verified first.

      Verified? By whom? By whose standards? Who determines the definitions used? Do citizens get to vote for these people? How far can they go, what are their powers? What kind of checks against political/ideological-weaponization will there be?

      You allow anyone the power to control what you see/read/hear, you allow them the power to make you their slave. It's always the edge-cases, the socially-repugnant extremes that authoritarians use to justify removing your choices and freedoms. It's happened over and over

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @04:06PM (#54300513)

    Does Google really think that Salon, Infowars and Breitbart readers are getting to those sites via Google? I'm sure some do, but I'll bet most go right to their site of choice.

    In our world of ideological teamism - the players have picked their sides and I'm willing to bet that Google had very little to do with their choice.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Does Google really think that Salon, Infowars and Breitbart readers are getting to those sites via Google? I'm sure some do, but I'll bet most go right to their site of choice.

      In our world of ideological teamism - the players have picked their sides and I'm willing to bet that Google had very little to do with their choice.

      Those who dont want their views challenged will be going to sites like Breitbart direct as they don't want to risk running into anything that may make them question their preconceptions.

      However that is a very small number of people. The masses tend to use search engines and social media.

      If anyone can successfully and accurately fight fake news, it is someone like Google. Fake news is best defined as non-fact based articles pretending to be news. Google with their experience in search and data management wou

  • Offensive content is purely subjective, how are they going to determine this? Are we going to have a SJW controlled Google now? Fuck that shit.
    • I would argue you already have one. Try finding anything at best neutral regarding race relations on Google. Hell, Google "Best Netflix Movies". Literally the second thing that comes up is "Dear White People", followed by "13th". Google something about race and IQ, and guaranteed one of the top, if not the top article will be some liberal op-ed. It happens all the time. It seems very intentional.
  • Too early? One "funny" modded comment that wasn't much. Several "insightful" mods, apparently on some sort of confusion of wit with insight. Brevity is only the soul of wit, sorry.

    Actually, I sort of think that the (increasingly evil) google has a good idea there, even if it's intuitively obvious to the most casual observer. Reputation is ultimately a human thing, and it is ultimately based on a network of trust. Three obvious problems:

    (1) Abuse of anonymity breaks the foundation of the trust network.
    (2) Th

  • A tool that political organizations will fire up their supporters to abuse. No doubt the ideologs at Google and their elitist silicon valley peers will not call into question.

    The choice is to continue to use Google where ideologs decide what you see and do not see or non-partisan alternatives like Newslookup.com

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @10:52PM (#54302625) Homepage Journal

    Fuck that noise.

    Freedom of speech. It's for everyone, not just those who agree with you.

  • Didn't the Supreme Court strike down every new version of the CDA on the exact grounds that 'offensive' wasn't clearly defined? - Because what is offensive to one may not even remotely be to others... Doubt that Facebook can do better in defining this.

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