Can Google stop fake news in its search results?

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It is ironic that in the word ‘believe’ is ‘lie.’

You may have heard about this issue which has been in the news a lot lately, especially following the recent US election. The issue concerns what someone may read on the internet and whether this content or news is actually a fact or fiction. Just like our display picture for this item is trying to show, is the green room really green?

Google recently announced that they would take action against sites who misrepresent the truth as the potential ramifications of “fake news” can have implications world-wide. It all started during the US election results in November as Google pointed to a site with incorrect figures for final results. It doesn’t take much imagination to think about the inconvenience and embarrassment this caused.

The problem is a massive one. Google may well announce that they will take action but the question is how, and currently there largely seems to be anything in the way of substantive steps to try and address this issue. Google initially seemed to indicate that it would stop advertising sites that gave false information and also seek to remedy the wider problem but at this stage it doesn’t seem like much has been done.

So what can be done?

The wider issue here seems to be about vetting (even censoring) the web and all its content. With an entity like the web which is truly endless, the question is can this be done in reality?

Some people feel that Google theirselves are to blame and particularly its “in the news” section that appears on search results. Before the end of 2014 news stories which appeared on this section had to be approved by a person and given the green light to be accepted for ‘publication.’ Since then the parameters changed where essentially what is called “the best possible answer” would be shown – i.e the best answer to the question it thought the user would want to see, but from a vast source (not necessarily vetted and approved as before.) At the time of writing Google has not made any plans to change this, even though there have been approaches by some to do so. The absence of clarification on this could mean two things:

1) Google are considering this point and a formulating a proposal for rectification but are unwilling to declare their hand just yet.

2) Panic! Google realise that this is such a task that they have no clue where to start or what to do.

The answer?

Well for reasons alluded to above, there might not actually be an answer. With the vast amount of articles and features on the web it would be physically impossible to regulate or manage them all.

Could Google go back to the old way and only allow news to appear from tried, tested and trusted sources? Maybe it could look at the way news or content articles rise in popularity / hits, and try and find some algorithm to determine whether these items would be true or false? What about websites that release information believing it to be the truth when it is actually not? Should they receive a penalty or the same level as knowingly misleading sites?

Alternatively (and like everyone else) if we really knew the answer, maybe Google would employ us to help?

This is definitely a ‘watch this space’ issue. In the meantime, good luck trying to solve this one to all involved!

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