I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of hearing the term “fake news”. Not necessarily because I think that fake news doesn’t exist, but because of that fact. It’s gone from meaning – the news story you are reading isn’t real – to a way to tell someone that you don’t agree with what they have to say. If my boss says that he doesn’t like the report I’ve written because I haven’t adequately captured its purpose. I can respond with “he’s just jealous because I’m a better writer than he is,” and call the whole thing fake news. It can’t be fake news when it’s an opinion. Sure, you don’t have to like my writing, but that’s not a “fact”. Which means, its not subjective to the same things that facts would be subjected to.
For example, you can’t fact check my opinions. I could say the most outrageous things on here, and while there might not be a single person out there who agrees with them, they can’t be deemed real or fake. My editor, however, can decide that he doesn’t want to post my opinions because he doesn’t agree with them. But he can’t turn around and call what I’m saying “fake news”. Just like I can’t call his decision to pull the articles “fake news”.
Why am I talking at length about fake news? Well, I’m worried that its meaning has been transformed into something else. This happens all the time in the English language, but I really don’t want to see this one turned into something it’s not. But now onto real news about fake news. Over the last couple of years Google has taken some steps to help fight the problem of actual fake news appearing on their search engine. From partnering with fact-checking networks to launching the $300 million Google News Initiative, they’re now expanding those efforts to combat fake news.
During the Munich Security Conference last weekend, Google presented a white paper explaining how it will tackle the “deliberate efforts to deceive and mislead the speed, scale and technologies of the open web”, across their platform including Search, News and YouTube. Its work falls broadly into three categories – quality, malicious actors and context.
Under quality, Google organizes content using ranking algorithms that do not reflect the ideological viewpoints of people creating or auditing that particular content. Instead, it is measured by human search quality raters. The white paper also details Google’s experience in fighting spam over the last 20 years, and how this can be used against content makers that try to deceive ranking systems in order to get more visibility. Google points to its Knowledge and Information Panels in Search and YouTube to help give users more context and background on the information they’re seeing. And even why they’re seeing it.
Is that enough? In my opinion, something is better than nothing. I’m glad to see tech companies like Google taking the spread of fake news seriously. And not saying that it’s just “fake news”. We now live in an age where ironically, fake news is a real thing, and companies like Google need to be prepared to stop its dissemination as best they can.