back to article Google unrolls search features to tackle misinformation

Further embracing its unspoken role as arbiter of truth, Google has unrolled some new search result features to help users "sort out what information is credible and what isn't." In particular, the search giant is introducing two new attributes: Information literacy tips for breaking topics, and a new Highly Cited label for …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    An oxymoron and a half?

    "...two new attributes: Information literacy tips for breaking topics, and a new Highly Cited label for news stories that have been widely used as sources for other news stories"

    The first, if done well, might assist in discriminating between true and false content. The second almost certainly will preferentially emphasise sensational content that circulates for that very reason, much of which may actually be more or less unreliable or false. So using the two measures together could leave the reader exactly where they were without the 'assistance'.

    There's also a serious hazard that content Goooooooogle disapproves of may be branded as unreliable regardless of actual veracity.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: An oxymoron and a half?

      Would you trust someone who's job title was a manager of misinformation?

      It'll be interesting to see how this pans out given the roles 'big tech' are playing in politics. Plus this is drifting deeper into editorialising, and sailing further from current safe harbours.

      Personally, I'd rather see Google gave a simple timeline showing when & where a story first appeared.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: An oxymoron and a half?

      > new Highly Cited label for news stories that have been widely used as sources for other news stories

      I see thousands of phantom sites popping up, managed by SEO operations, allowing you to get the largest amount of citations possible for a reasonable fee. After all, that's how "search optimization" began, back when the amount of links to your site determined your Google rank.

      Definitely not a way to check if a source is reliable.

      1. badflorist

        Re: An oxymoron and a half?

        "back when the amount of links to your site determined your Google rank."

        That's still how it works, but you can get that extra tip-off by using AMP, google.js scripts, paying Google, etc., but it's still very much at it's core about links. As long as people allow it to be all about links, Google wins.

        Technically, you can obsolete Google and everyone like them with a decentralize ad system using a very large and simple block chain since you get a unique identifier and chain of custody with the bonus of embedding data. Why is nobody doing it? Well maybe they are but how come you can't find it in a search....?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Waste of time IMHO

    a few years back, this would have seemed like a great idea. However, there really are folk out there whose attitude is "you can prove anything with facts" and live their life accordingly.

    People don't believe fairy stories because of who is telling them. They believe them because it suits them.

    One of the best quotes to never really make it into the world is from the underrated "Avenue 5" ..

    "I've just seen seven people stupid themselves to death."

    https://ew.com/recap/avenue-5-season-1-episode-9/

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Believing fairy stories

      People believing fairy tales because it suits them is a useful feature for scammers. Scammers start by saying what their victims want to believe. By repeating that step often enough the scammer becomes a trusted source of new information. The victims will then believe whatever lies the scammer says - because it is the scammer who is talking.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Waste of time IMHO

      Season 2 coming soon...

  3. Diogenes

    So Google will only be returning "approved" propaganda

    Misinformation is what I (imagine the I captilised in 72pt bolded & red) don't believe in.

    The Poisoned dwarf would love Google

  4. Aquatyger

    Fact checkers need fact checkers

    It has been demonstrated in court that fact checkers are just expressing left-wing opinion.

    1. Ben Tasker

      Re: Fact checkers need fact checkers

      Well, to be fair, you're not going to state right wing opinions in court having said "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

      Seriously though, got a link to back that up? There's a world of difference between "demonstrated in court" and "found by a court".

      1. Aquatyger

        Re: Fact checkers need fact checkers

        https://nypost.com/2021/12/13/facebook-bizarrely-claims-its-misquote-is-opinion/

        https://nypost.com/2021/12/14/facebook-admits-the-truth-fact-checks-are-really-just-lefty-opinion/

        https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj.o95

        Google is your friend. However, I used Duck Duck Go.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fact checkers need fact checkers

          OK, so your sources are a couple of nypost articles, one of which is written by a party to the lawsuit, and the other is reporting on the other?

          You'll note that those articles didn't include Facebook's filing? Here's an article that does: https://www.opindia.com/2021/12/facebook-accepts-that-its-third-party-fact-checks-are-nothing-but-protected-opinions-reports/

          The snippet from their filing is

          > Stossel's claims focus on the fact-check articles written by Climate Feedback, not the labels affixed through the Facebook platform. The labels themselves are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion

          They're not saying "oh it's just an opinion", or even "it's just an expression of left-wing opinion".

          They're saying that the label that Stossel is objecting to is applied as a result of the fact-checker's assessment. He's suing entirely the wrong party.

          They're not using a defence that the label is true, because they're not the party that made the assessment (that was Climate Feedback), and therefore need to show that they're communicating an opinion onwards. It's for Climate Feedback to make the defense that what they said was true.

          Defamation law is complex and confusing (it's even worse here in the UK), what the nypost is spreading is basically a convenient sounding sound-bite.

          > https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj.o95

          This reads like a problem with a specific fact checker tbh

          > Google is your friend. However, I used Duck Duck Go.

          Thanks, but you made the claim so it was on you to provide evidence for it.

          I'm not sure you've managed

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Fact checkers need fact checkers

      > It has been demonstrated in court that fact checkers are just expressing left-wing opinion.

      This is a cute little example of the "we of the right-wing camp are poor bullied victims" rhetoric, and as such a little suspect, isn't it.

      Nevertheless it might indeed be true, but in this case it is actually very negative, since it means that most "fake news" out there convey right-wing ideas... Beware of what you wish!

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Aquatyger

        Re: Fact checkers need fact checkers

        So from this I assume that you believe that the National Socialist Workers Party of Germany were extreme right wing?

        I would refer you to this video that tells of left wing liberals in the 1930s praising the Nazis and the Italian Fascists as being exemplary examples of socialism and Marxism. Thomas Sowell: Were the NAZIS Right Wing? (Re-uploaded) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNxrBilAV7Y

        1. ThatOne Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: Fact checkers need fact checkers

          Despite it sounding like a linear scale, it's actually a circle: Extremes of both sides meet and extremists thus freely move from one side to the other. Extreme right and extreme left wing crazies might disagree on cosmetic details, but they definitely agree on the fundamentals.

          Anyway, this is a reductio ad Hitlerum, and as per Godwin's law you have lost the argument! Sorry. :-p

  5. SBU
    FAIL

    oh dear,

    The father of lies unrolls search features to tackle people ignoring it's propaganda.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: oh dear,

      They're digging up poor old Herodotus for this job?

  6. Cederic Silver badge

    Information Literacy

    Information literacy almost mandates ignoring the most cited sources. They're the "everybody knows that" truth that can not be challenged.

    Validating that truth requires inputs from a broad range of sources, or use of sites whose denizens access those and use them to challenge conventional wisdom as a matter of course.

    Sadly such sites are invariably marginalised by social media and mainstream sources, and are themselves vulnerable to being wrong on specific issues.

    So information literacy is good, it's needed, and frankly it's not being taught in schools. That's the gap that needs to be addressed, not further skewing of Google search results towards an 'agreed truth'.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Information Literacy

      > information literacy is good

      ...but selling ads is better! Google only tries to preserve its credibility among the masses as The official source of all information ("let's google it"), this has nothing to do with philosophy and ethics.

  7. Oliver Knill

    lord of tackling misinformation

    The kicker would be if the ``Lord to tackle misinformation"

    came to the conclusion that it is itself a source of misinformation ...

    Misinformation is subtle. It can be driven by commercial interests.

    Every advertisement is misinformation if the product

    is not good. It can be driven by government interest who want to

    trigger some behavior. It can be driven by health concerns or can be

    motivated by moral or religious feelings.

    It can be triggered sponsors or lobbyists and PR departments. It can

    also come simply from personal interests or interests of close friends

    or alliances which need to be satisfied.

    What is needed is transparency about the network of connections. Who

    owns and sponsors a specific medium or politician. What is also needed

    is analysis of the past. We have many examples in the past where we were

    misled badly and where the misinformation only came to light after years.

    Maybe the best is not to trust any source by itself and also monitor

    what information is filtered or censored.

  8. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Flame

    Google search censorship

    I have always been curious about Google's trustworthiness to produce unbiased search results, and the events of the past two years gave me the opportunity to perform an exercise. A year ago I searched for 'CDC Covid vaccination card templates'. Google produced zero results. Zip, zilch, nada.

    I looked at Startpage, Duckduckgo, and Presearch. All of them immediately found templates in CDC published documentation on various state government websites!.

    This was not so-called misinformation. These were extensive PDF documents published by the CDC and distributed by authorized government authorities. They contained hundreds of pages of information on how to deal with Covid. However, because they also contained blank CDC vaccination cards Google was filtering them from the search results.

    I respectfully submit if the CDC did not want blank vaccination cards in the hands of the public, it is their responsibility to not publish them. It is not Google's responsibility to censor them out of search results. Especially considering the valuable public health information also contained in the documents.

    Google failed to provide uncensored search results in this exercise where I could confirm the information. Therefore I cannot trust the results of further searches where I do not have the ability to validate their results. The only commodity Google has is my faith in the accuracy and completeness of their search results. I now have zero trust in their search results to be unbiased toward their big tech agenda.

    I encourage you to stop relying on Google as the source of truth for Internet searches. Use Presearch or a different search engine once in a while, the results are dramatically different.

  9. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Is somebody checking on censorship?

    The query "google hosting spammers" has made a sudden change. Google Search used to only give instructions and discussions for using Gmail to block outside spammers. Now it's slightly less filtered. They've added some relevant results that are clearly marked with old timestamps. It's still highly censored but Google lawyers could point to the old articles and claim it isn't.

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