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Google Executives Are Floating a Plan To Fight Fake News on Facebook and Twitter (qz.com) 305

Fake news, bots, and propaganda were hot topics at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last month, and Google executives there floated an intriguing idea to some fellow attendees -- what if the company could tell users whether information is trustworthy before they shared it on social networks like Facebook and Twitter? From a report: Representatives from Google and its parent company Alphabet eagerly discussed how the company can play a greater role in reducing misleading information online, several Davos attendees involved in and briefed on these conversations told Quartz. A notification system, perhaps via an optional extension for Google's Chrome browser, was an idea that these people said was broached more than once. Such a browser-based system controlled by Google could alert users on Facebook's or Twitter's websites when they're seeing or sharing a link deemed to be false or untrustworthy. Right now, this appears to be merely an idea company executives are discussing, not a product in development.
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Google Executives Are Floating a Plan To Fight Fake News on Facebook and Twitter

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  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <greg@gksnetworks.com> on Thursday February 08, 2018 @11:35AM (#56089315) Homepage

    Facebook and Twitter are not News sites, or even aggregators, in the first place.

    • by mrops ( 927562 )

      Yet they are scourge of society that enabled Trump and other like Modi in India to be elected. All of a sudden, this technology enabled bigot racists to unite in name of White power or Hindutva back in India. The folks who were rightly suppressed from bringing their hate agenda, marginalized because of racisit values were able to unite, empower with fake news and bought these monsters to power. Wrong kind of conservatives are pulling us back to 1900s

      Yet, IMO, Facebook (whastapp) and Twitter should work alon

      • Yet [social media is a] scourge of society that ensured Trump and Clinton were our only "viable" options

        FTFY. During the election (and for months after) I saw a fair amount of bullshit being flung from both sides.

        Nobody's a saint when it comes to US politics. Except maybe 3rd parties, but only about 6% of us actually vote for them.

    • They don't beat traditional journalism meaning primary source information from people on the ground actually interviewing people. However, that kind of journalism is dead so really Twitter and Facebook don't need to compete with it any longer. Instead the compete with the kind of news that involves repeating something while adding baseless commentary and opinions ad nauseum.
  • fake to who? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08, 2018 @11:41AM (#56089365)

    The james damore case clearly shows us that google is not like a computer system that neutrally handles data, it has a specific narrative which is emotional and based on current political leanings and the soft 'gut' feeling of the population.

    Would we be seeing things which google does not like, say perhaps that some of their hardware was being manufactured by slave labor et al? Or would this suddenly become 'fake news'

    The problem is not really fake news, the problem is the lack of anything like a credible media source. Everyone has cross mergered to the point where what we see and hear as 'news' is generally only the things we are allowed to see.

    See for example the court case in which fox news bought out WTVT and then buried a story about Monstanto's posilac product and the harmful effects it had on the animals and on anyone drinking it (hint, it is on the market, will remain so, and is not safe to consume)

    Now try and look around at any major news corp that has mentioned that monsanto's roundup weed killer is also a known active carcinogen (again, on the market, not safe, will remain that way).

    We are already living in the age of fake news from our highest sources. This whole thing just stinks of a way to cripple what little independent media is left so that the rich can write the narrative of our reality. I believe russians probably did purchase and attempt to sway public opinion on matters if only to create a divide, I also believe that corporations do this as a matter of daily operations like one might take a solid dump in the morning.

    There is no cure for this situation save one which is unappealing....we need to start to kill the rich similar to the french revolution. The only reason we have rights today the way we recognize them is because an angry mob started to cut rich peoples heads off until an agreement of fair treatment was made. You may know such agreements as the bill of human rights, principle of equality, separation of church and state, congress and/or a group of representatives of the people, removal of the feudal system, etc. These effects rippled across the planet to give us much of what we know today as modern civil society.

    Again, unappealing, but beneficial without a doubt. Perhaps the time has come again to remind those in power who we are

    • We've always had "fake news", it just used to be called rumors, innuendos, and out right BS. The 2 main differences are:
      1) FaceCrook has taken all the advertising from real news organizations, companies that used to vet people and sources. news papers hired editors and investigative journalists who did the diligence rather than burped garbage like the Star, National Enquirer or FauxNoise.
      2) The death of real, vetted news, and millennial 140 character attention span has reduced our over all ability to di
  • Google CEO Eric Schmidt: "We're not arguing for censorship, we're arguing just take it off the page. Put it somewhere else. Make it harder to find."

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Google CEO Eric Schmidt: "We're not arguing for censorship, we're arguing just take it off the page. Put it somewhere else. Make it harder to find."

      So, they're arguing for censorship. Their privilege, but I'd rather have less censorship rather than more....

      • It's a bit Orwellian but while this is softer than radical censorship I think the collaborative effort of social media and Google could lead to a very potent form of incremental censorship. Once everything you say , link to or search for gets an automatic score for patriotic loyalty you get a strong effect of conformity where you avoid doing things which affect your (search rank, popularity)score or the score of the people you are linked to. It's incremental and deniable. The infrastructure behind it is jus

  • Oh Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DivineKnight ( 3763507 ) on Thursday February 08, 2018 @11:55AM (#56089455)

    We'll fight bias with even more bias! That'll fix it!

  • by Eldragon ( 163969 ) on Thursday February 08, 2018 @12:02PM (#56089497)

    I'm sure Google will start with removing truly fake news, but they will quickly slide into removing anything that reflects badly on Google or the people they support. They have already proven to put ideology first.

    Modern journalism is about covering the important stories... with a pillow until they stop moving.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The suggestion is for a notification, not removal.

      Facebook did actually try this, adding something like "this article is disputed by such-and-such" with a link. Unfortunately this tended to have the opposite effect to the one desired. People assumed that the "mainstream media" disagreeing was just more proof of the conspiracy to hide the truth. In other words it made them even more gullible.

      This truth-proofing has been one of the most powerful techniques used by the fake-news brigade. They don't just lie, t

  • Executives coming up with innovative ideas! Let's apply them right away! What could possibly go wrong? If more executives had their voices heard, there wouldn't be problems in the world! I want an executive in my life! Anyone knows where can I get a discount one? LOL.
  • Is to start placing bounties on sites that run fake news.

    In today's news market, it's a series of programs deciding what to put on your pages. Highly tailored to fit into your bubble of chosen topics and viewpoints.

    So place a bounty on fake news like a bug bounty. For the sake of discussion, let's call it a $5,000 penalty for running a fake story. The bounty goes to whomever first proves it's fake with checkable facts and sources. The bounty is paid by the site that displayed the story.

    Now you have inc

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The problem with this idea is that the fake news sites will never join the programme. They will just argue that it's run by the biased mainstream media alt-leftists or whatever and turn not being part of it into a badge of honour.

      We already have a pretty good fact checking system for reputable news outlets. They check each other, they check themselves and they publish corrections. The problem is the disreputable ones who ignore all that stuff and don't care.

      • As second problem is that any site who might have a bounty claimed against them could just have an employee claim it for them. The gamesmanship in stuff like this is infinite.

    • The only solution is to let speech be free, and let people make up their own damn minds whether information is "fake" or not.

      • I disagree. If the current situation has taught us anything, it's that people will select facts by confirmation bias rather than truth. Allowing the proliferation of false facts to create turmoil is not a desirable outcome.

        • If free speech is not the answer and people cannot be their own gatekeepers of information then democracy is a failure.

          Proliferation of false facts to create turmoil is not a desirable outcome but it is much better than abridging free speech under the misguided notion that there is such a thing as neutral gatekeeper of information.

  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Thursday February 08, 2018 @12:20PM (#56089599)

    There's possibly a way to do this without taking a side on the accuracy of the information: to flag information with a partisanship score.

    Google knows the distribution of information consumed, and it can probably already do enough sentiment analysis to score cliques on partisanship. Google definitely knows how to extract the trigger words from the discourse (subtype: click bait) and it could easily algo up a trigger score, too. However, Google will lay such a number bare not in my lifetime.

    Failing a trigger score, an ad hominem score might be effective, instead. The scores can either be assigned to the documents, or to the primary cliques consuming the documents.

    Turns out the distribution of an item is primary meta-data pertaining to its appropriate consumption.

    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      I've been thinking along these lines. You can't automate fact checking without choosing authoritative sources which itself would be biased. Many fact checkers will betray their biases by carefully choosing which aspects of a story or statement to fact check leading to very different results.

      For instance the sky is blue is a fact (sort of). But saying "the sky is blue during the Trump administration" could be called a lie or truth depending how you parse it. Pro Trump and you simply agree that the sky is

  • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Thursday February 08, 2018 @12:26PM (#56089625)

    ... not sure we need commissars for it though.

    {the scene: Myrtle and Ester, gossiping over their fence}

    Myrtle: Hey Ester, did you hear the news? Hillary Clinton ran a private email server out of her bathroom, so she wouldn't have to use official government email!

    Ester: Oh really? Well I think ...

    {popping out of bushes}Ivan: Excuse me, comrades! Ha, no, see, this is not "news" as you say, this is "fake news"!

    Ivan: Let me provide you with real news story about the perfectly legal activities of most excellent Secretary Clinton! This news has been verified by current federal executive, so you know it is unbiased and true!

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday February 08, 2018 @12:28PM (#56089633)
    Part of the reason no one trusts NBC, CNN, etc. anymore is that half the stories they run with have no cited sources, just BS like "said one source with inside knowledge who was not allowed to speak on the record". And sometimes those leaks are just that - BS fed to reporters too lazy to check out the stories they were handed.

    So before "Big News" gets to complain about "Alt News" running with poor sourcing, "Big News" needs get their own house in order first.
    • by geek ( 5680 ) on Thursday February 08, 2018 @01:15PM (#56089941)

      I agree. But it's getting even worse now. I read an article the other day, 75% of the page was twitter quotes, like that tells me anything other than some dbag on twitter had an opinion. I see this shit in more and more news articles as if Twitter means dick to anyone.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Part of the reason no one trusts NBC, CNN, etc. anymore is that half the stories they run with have no cited sources, just BS like "said one source with inside knowledge who was not allowed to speak on the record". And sometimes those leaks are just that - BS fed to reporters too lazy to check out the stories they were handed.

      So before "Big News" gets to complain about "Alt News" running with poor sourcing, "Big News" needs get their own house in order first.

      There is a difference between sometimes not doing your due diligence on your sources and deliberately and consistently outright fabricating stories with no basis in reality. There is also a difference between biased reporting that reports both sides of an issue with a preference for one and reporting that deliberately and consistently omits facts from the story to infuriate readers with how obviously wrong the opposing view must be.

      The failure to see those differences is what infuriates people trying to co

      • >> Nobody is saying that NBC, CNN, or the like are shining bastions of journalistic integrity.

        Unfortunately, people ARE saying that. That's the basis of the "credible source" bit in TFA: if story link X is from "Big News" it will be flagged credible but if it's from independent muckraker Y it will be flagged as questionable.
        • >> Nobody is saying that NBC, CNN, or the like are shining bastions of journalistic integrity.

          Unfortunately, people ARE saying that. That's the basis of the "credible source" bit in TFA: if story link X is from "Big News" it will be flagged credible but if it's from independent muckraker Y it will be flagged as questionable.

          I read the entire article. There is no reference to any source being given preferential treatment on credibility based on whether it's from "Big News" or not. In fact,

          a browser-based system controlled by Google could alert users on Facebook’s or Twitter’s websites when they’re seeing or sharing a link deemed to be false or untrustworthy.

          The trustworthiness would be evaluated on a link by link basis. So if one story on CNN.com is factually correct, but another has been found to have no basis in fact, the second link could be flagged as untrustworthy. The same can apply to infowars.com on a per-story basis. Again, this is a story about spitballing ideas and even here nobod

    • As second major issue is that with 24 hr news, they all have to have a LOT of filler.

      Having to have filler means there is a real dilution between what's "real news" and what's "entertainews". The sensational but not really relevant becomes entwined with what's really important.

      Unfortunately, news competes for eyeballs, and once the 24 hr networks embraced the sensational and the celebrity news, the "Big News" that wasn't 24 hr wasn't too far behind to start sliding in those stories. That makes it even harde

  • Wouldn't Work (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Thursday February 08, 2018 @12:32PM (#56089655) Homepage

    Let's suppose that Google goes ahead and makes a "Fake News Alert" Chrome plugin. Further, let's assume that they don't abuse their position (as someone else guessed they would by marking anti-Google posts as "fake" regardless of the truth) or engage in any partisan bias (marking true posts from one side as fake simply because Google workers tend to support the other side). Would this type of thing even be effective?

    I'd argue that it wouldn't. This would be an optional plugin. You'd need to purposefully go and get the plugin. The only people who did that would be people who care whether a news source is fake or not. This would likely exclude almost everyone who posts fake news items. They don't care about truth as much as they care that the story fits their narrative. Even if they installed the plugin, they'd start seeing stories they agreed with marked as fake. Then, they'd either have to change their minds or just accuse Google as being part of the "establishment deep state conspiracy" (or something like that). Like Nigerian scammer victims, these people wouldn't want to admit that they were suckered by fake news in the past so they'd go with the "this news is real, Google's lying" explanation

    While I commend Google for trying to figure out a way to fight stories that are completely fake, an optional plugin won't do anything.

  • Google Executives Are Floating a Plan To Fight Fake News on Facebook and Twitter

    Such collusion among monopolies to control the flow of information should have been denounced by all Slashdotters, and attracted attention of the Justice Department enforcing anti-trust laws...

    • Exactly. Am I the only one thinking, "Google doesn't want to police the thoughts of people in its own services, it wants to police the thoughts of ALL social media."

      No way. Stay in your lane, Google.

  • meh (Score:5, Funny)

    by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Thursday February 08, 2018 @12:42PM (#56089713)

    Not sure which is worse; government censored "news", or leftist techie executive censored "news".

    "We play both kinds of music here: country, and western!"

  • by VeryFluffyBunny ( 5037285 ) on Thursday February 08, 2018 @01:03PM (#56089863)

    Bearing in mind that "fake news" is just another euphemism for public relations (PR) and propaganda:

    Will Google also apply these algorithms of "truthfulness" and what they consider to be misleading to online advertising? And will they also censor "fake news" circulated by elected officials on topics such as climate change, evolution, and the "War against Christmas"?

    Don't you find it ironic that the world's biggest and most powerful advertising and PR agencies, e.g. Google, Facebook, and Twitter, are claiming to be reliable arbiters of truth? I mean, it's not as if they get paid $billions for prioritising certain messages over others by their clients, is it?

    It looks like we're going to have Silicon Valley executives deciding which is "good" fake news and which is "bad."

  • Let's ass/u/me the tech works. (Ok, hypothesize.)

    I'm trying to understand how a user would be excited or interested in this. "You're about to step in it by posting something really stupid which will damage your personal reputation among everyone who knows you, covering you in a shroud of dishonor and making everyone whisper and giggle about you behind your back. Are you sure you want to make a fool of yourself?" Is it like that, but more charitably phrased?

    I would think that most of the people who share t

  • Putting aside the concerns about Google acting as the gatekeeper for this, the far right has already shown us that they don't care. People who commonly consume this crap will see the warning, scream "Fake news!" and/or "Liberal conspiracy!" and visit the link anyway. I've even heard right wingers label Snopes as fake news for disproving the fake news that they want to hear.
  • What makes anyone think the consumers of fake news dont know they it is fake news?

    They know it is fake, but they like it so they let it slide. People who know it is fake stay silent.

    The other day I came across an old gentleman in a party spouting some nonsense "all the laws of thermodynamics are in in Bhagwat Gita". Some kind of stretched argument based on very generous interpretation of metallic (i.e. malleable and ductile) sentences equating entropy with chaos with degeneration. Almost everyone around

  • Please, Google. Stop it.

  • The accuracy of human's ability to detect fake news can be correllated with cognitive ability. [scientificamerican.com] Typically we look at the quality of the writing, formality of the language, citations, past knowledge of author or outlet, past knowledge of named sources and other qualities old fashioned real journalists and editors are well aware of. [americanpr...titute.org]

    So instead of google rank purely by citation, create a Bayesian lie detector. Set the output to True and throw a math or physics textbook at a ML training network. Give it some wea

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