How Google's lack of human curation spreads and monetizes fake news

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2017
Google search is developing a credibility problem that could be blamed on artificial intelligence. In a statement, the company said its algorithms for generating "featured snippet" answers can cause "instances when we feature a site with inappropriate or misleading content," resulting in false answers. However, Google is also the source--and funding--behind much of the fake news on the Internet, thanks to a similar lack of curation for YouTube.


Google's old results here haven't been accurate for months

False results from outdated news sources

Sometimes Google's suggested search answers, called "featured snippets" are simply outdated, presenting false answers based on old headlines. At the end of February AppleInsider noted that Google was still providing year-old stock market information that confidently, but falsely, claimed Google's parent company was worth more than Apple.

That hasn't been true in months. Since we published the story, Google has removed its "snippet" answer (above) but still returns old, incorrect links from last summer as more relevant links than the new story with accurate information. Further, it still populates a "people also ask" question panel with multiple wrong answers (below).



False results from fake news sources

Even worse, Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineLand, noted in a Tweet that Google is also drawing "snippet" answers from non-credible sources. "If you're wondering if Obama is planning a coup, Google's 'one true answer' is yes. FFS," Sullivan stated.

If you're wondering if Obama is planning a coup, Google's "one true answer" is yes. FFS. pic.twitter.com/pFr7omJttU

-- Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan)


A report by recode pointed out that the false information is also read off by Google's Alexa-like Home appliance. It noted that "unlike a normal page of search results, Google Home doesn't tell you where its answer came from or give you the option to see other answers."

BBC tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones demonstrated Google Home cheerfully recounting that former U.S. President Obama "may be planning a communist coup d'etat at the end of his term in 2016!"

And here's what happens if you ask Google Home "is Obama planning a coup?" pic.twitter.com/MzmZqGOOal

-- Rory Cellan-Jones (@ruskin147)


Amazon's Alexa, recode pointed out, didn't return similar false results, instead saying "I can't find the answer to the question I heard."

Google responded to recode in a statement that said, "when we are alerted to a Featured Snippet that violates our policies, we work quickly to remove them, which we have done in this instance. We apologize for any offense this may have caused."

False information cultivated and monetized with corporate advertising

However, it was actually Google's YouTube service that published the false video behind the "answer" from a user named "Western Center for Journalism" back in 2014, "Obama's Coming Communist Coup D'?tat in 2016."


Google just took money from IBM to sponsor this old fake news YouTube video


A report by BuzzFeed recently drew attention to YouTube's role as a sewage pipe delivering fake news and hate speech.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which have been frequently criticized for spreading false stories and conspiracy theories, YouTube generally gets a pass from the media. That may be related to the fact that Google's ads monetize most news websites, and web publishers are largely dependent upon Google search for sending them traffic.

The report by BuzzFeed profiled one YouTube user, David Seaman, as sending a daily stream of videos to 150,000 subscribers, monetized by Google ads from "major brands like Quaker Oats and Uber."

Seaman's stories frequently involve false stories of rape and pedophilia related to a Washington D.C. pizzeria, which stoked outrage among uneducated Americans and inflamed one angry YouTube watcher to the point of showing up at the slandered restaurant with a gun.

Other fake news YouTube segments include deceptively edited videos vilifying emigrants in Europe, including a low budget, false report set in Sweden, published on YouTube as a viral video clip named, "Stockholm Syndrome."

That fake news YouTube video was shown on a Fox and Friends segment on TV, and was subsequently referred to by a disturbed President Trump at a rally, where he spoke of "what's happening last night in Sweden" as if speaking about a terrorist attack, rather than just the issue of a gullible viewer of advanced age confused about the nature fake news content on YouTube, and the willingness of Fox News and Google to lend it credibility for revenue.

Beyond the president of the United States, hundreds of thousands of other YouTube viewers are regularly feeding on subjects ranging from "PizzaGate" child rape fantasy to Holocaust denial to Muslim invasion via immigration. In some high profile cases, such as PewDiePie, Google determines that videos may not be "advertiser friendly" and "demonetizes" them.

Overall, much of Google's featured content not only veers into fake news and conspiracy theory, but actively pushes viewers "down the rabbit hole" by showing them more of whatever false information they wander into, thanks to algorithms that recommend related content without any actual human curation, a growing issue for advertisers.

Google's management of YouTube is similar to that of its Google Play store for Android, where fake content dilutes the value and visibility of legitimate content, and copyright theft is emboldened by Google's sponsorship through ad monetization.
lostkiwismiffy31
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 42,837member
    It’s a shame that everything after “A report” is in the article, because talking about Google–just Google–and its obviously biased advertising and search algorithms would’ve made for a great thread.
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 2 of 51
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,507member
    Do no evil...unless you can make money off it. 
    tallest skillostkiwiwatto_cobracalistanthemanspice-boyneo-techdavenlolliver
  • Reply 3 of 51
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 42,837member
    jungmark said:
    Do no evil...unless you can make money off it. 
    Don’t be evil.™

    “But…”

    It’s not evil when we do it.®
    lostkiwileviwatto_cobracalistanthemanneo-techuniscape
  • Reply 4 of 51
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,174member
    I thought it was Facebook that elected Trump (not Google).    I guess its ok when the left attacks the media (but not when Trump does).

    Yeah It's probably time to Close this thread down.   LOL.

    awilliams87adm1daven
  • Reply 5 of 51
    georgie01georgie01 Posts: 123member
    Not sure what the reasoning is behind the current concern over fake news. Fake news is nothing new. Any bias news report is fake news because it's misleading, and rarely is there an unbiased news report. News outlets don't even always know they're doing it because they're writing for a predetermined narrative or belief and using selective 'facts' or a specific perspective on facts to justify it.

    The current concern over 'fake' news is probably more a concern over immature or blatant fake news, as if professional and respectable fake news is somehow better.

    Wouldn't it be great if news outlets actually wrote genuinely unbiased news?
    edited March 2017 lkruppawilliams87watto_cobraasdasdSpamSandwich
  • Reply 6 of 51
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 5,805member
    georgie01 said:
    Not sure what the reasoning is behind the current concern over fake news. Fake news is nothing new. Any bias news report is fake news because it's misleading, and rarely is there an unbiased news report. News outlets don't even always know they're doing it because they're writing for a predetermined narrative or belief and using selective 'facts' or a specific perspective on facts to justify it.

    The current concern over 'fake' news is probably more a concern over immature or blatant fake news, as if professional and respectable fake news is somehow better.

    Wouldn't it be great if news outlets actually wrote genuinely unbiased news?
    Modern news media no longer report the news. They try to influence results. Fox News and MSNBC are nothing more than mouthpieces for their respective ideologies. They are propagandists no different than the government controlled media of countries like Russia and China.
    watto_cobracaliadm1smiffy31asdasdpscooter63tallest skillolliverjony0
  • Reply 7 of 51
    JCeeJCee Posts: 4member
    The concept that there can be unbiased news needs examination by the commenters here. Some press eletes claim so, but we know (don't we?) it's up to the citizen to sort thru facts and decide for themselves on philosophy, morality and even what news is true or important. Expecting others to do that for a dollar newspaper is silly in a historical sense, and replacing critical analysis with unquestioned trust of media, government or industry is just not what Americans do. Not questioning authority or believing all you read is accurate, would be far more worrisome than a biased Fox News or MSNBC.
    edited March 2017 asdasdneo-tech
  • Reply 8 of 51
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 742member
    jungmark said:
    Do no evil...unless you can make money off it. 
    If you need a slogan to remind you then you know full well you're being evil most days.
    watto_cobracalineo-techlolliver
  • Reply 9 of 51
    WhyGeeWhyGee Posts: 8member
    Money in politics is every bit as toxic as money in news.

    A TV newscast that gets interrupted for commercial announcements is diminished by the introduction of a sponsor.  
    The concentration of the media outlets in relatively few hands is another problem.

    Declaring that money equals speech is specious (e.g., Citizens United).

    But I humbly believe that there remains a sizable difference between (1) news gathered and disseminated by professional journalists and (2) news fabricated from scratch.  
    Any organization that knowingly conveys fake news so it can profit from it is reprehensible
    stanthemanneo-tech
  • Reply 10 of 51
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    This pisses me the f**k off!!
    Goog disgusts me and I can't believe people put up with this sh**!!
    stantheman
  • Reply 11 of 51
    berndogberndog Posts: 39member
    Well I for one am in the market for a source of news that is willing to parse the headlines and offer the best estimate of the true crux of the matter! I'd also like an honest editorial source that views news from a predisposed political/ moral position e.g. Left, Catholic, neo-fascist etc.
  • Reply 12 of 51
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 4,950member
    Fake news is nothing new and is something that the mainstream media engages in. Iraq for instance. Syria is another. 

    Or else it isn't reported - like Yemen. 

    What is sinister is talking about fake news and demanding something be done. If lots of people on YouTube think Obama is a communist, so be it. It's a hosting service and unless the uploads violate the law that's all the moderation it needs, ie none.  
  • Reply 13 of 51
    Googles search algoritm has been declining all along. They have intrests that doesnt involve the requesters motivs for the search and the aims of the searcher and google are going further and further away from eachothers. The result is that everyone will sooner or later just skip google search for a better search engine like google was 10 years ago. Google has made the Yahoo mistake when Google itself was young and people wanted excelent results and not biased towards some other goal set by others.
  • Reply 14 of 51
    spacekidspacekid Posts: 152member
    lkrupp said:
    georgie01 said:
    Not sure what the reasoning is behind the current concern over fake news. Fake news is nothing new. Any bias news report is fake news because it's misleading, and rarely is there an unbiased news report. News outlets don't even always know they're doing it because they're writing for a predetermined narrative or belief and using selective 'facts' or a specific perspective on facts to justify it.

    The current concern over 'fake' news is probably more a concern over immature or blatant fake news, as if professional and respectable fake news is somehow better.

    Wouldn't it be great if news outlets actually wrote genuinely unbiased news?
    Modern news media no longer report the news. They try to influence results. Fox News and MSNBC are nothing more than mouthpieces for their respective ideologies. They are propagandists no different than the government controlled media of countries like Russia and China.
    Most of the media tries to influence results including CNN and the NY Times.
  • Reply 15 of 51
    Google doesn't care what it publishes, if it earns revenue from it. Not earning a profit is evil (I guess). This entire issue illustrates the difference between algorithms and intelligence.

    "Artificial intelligence" is a euphemism for extracting hints and half-truths from data sets of limited usefulness. It is often better than the alternative (guessing, hunches), but it does not mimic the human brain. It is Silicon Valley's way of stereotyping people and discriminating against them, without having to admit it.
  • Reply 16 of 51
    Any bias news report is fake news because it's misleading, and rarely is there an unbiased news report.
    "Biased" means that you're consistently leaving out relevant factual information in news items by choice. It doesn't mean that the information you are including is fabricated. "Fake" means that the information you're providing is fabricated.
    neo-techbrucemc
  • Reply 17 of 51
    Typical DED, trying to claim Sweden doesn't have issues. 

    Him writing an article about fake news is the ultimate irony. 
    tallest skilsirlance99dick applebaum
  • Reply 18 of 51
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 504member
    georgie01 said:
    Not sure what the reasoning is behind the current concern over fake news. Fake news is nothing new. Any bias news report is fake news because it's misleading, and rarely is there an unbiased news report. News outlets don't even always know they're doing it because they're writing for a predetermined narrative or belief and using selective 'facts' or a specific perspective on facts to justify it.

    The current concern over 'fake' news is probably more a concern over immature or blatant fake news, as if professional and respectable fake news is somehow better.

    Wouldn't it be great if news outlets actually wrote genuinely unbiased news?
    There is a big difference from so called "bias" news reporting and plain outright lies. That pizza restaurant child sex ring story that some fools believed was not a bias story it was fabricated bull. I visited the UN the other day where there is an exhibition about the dangers of propaganda highlighting the Nazi's success in discrediting established news sources and institutions and then the placement of its propaganda machine as "real" news. This is from that show:

    In the 21st century. the information landscape is far different from that of the 1930s and 40s. The internet allows for instant and global mass communications and today more than 2 billion people get their news and share their thoughts online. While the World Wide Web has become the greatest marketplace of ideas in human history, it is also one of the primary transmitters of propaganda. The growth of the Web and new technologies has created serious challenges, generating debate about how to counter the spread of dangerous propaganda and incitements to hatred without endangering civil liberties. 
  • Reply 19 of 51
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,447member
    Typical DED, trying to claim Sweden doesn't have issues. 

    Him writing an article about fake news is the ultimate irony. 
    Where does he claim "Sweden doesn't have issues"?
    StrangeDaysDanielEran
  • Reply 20 of 51
    freeperfreeper Posts: 77member
    Yesterday a dubious post claiming that Microsoft's days are numbered ... when in reality their profits and market share are rising. Today an equally dubious post about Google's products and services that 1) are not in competition with any Apple product and are hence irrelevant to an Apple blog and 2) are themselves among the most popular apps and services used by owners of iOS and macOS devices, which would mean that if they do in fact pose the great threat and evil that the author claims, Apple is responsible to block it yet has not for years, does not and will not.

    Echoing my comment from yesterday, stuff like this will only increase as Apple's long stretch of exchanging innovation, risk-taking and new ideas for "me too products" (Apple Watch not much different from Samsung Gear and Android Wear; "new" Apple TV not much different from Amazon Fire TV and Android TV and barely superior to Roku; Apple Music basically Spotify/Pandora/Google Play Music; iPad Pro basically Samsung Galaxy Note Pro with a little Microsoft Surface; iPhone 8 is going to be a full on Galaxy Note/S device; Apple Pay a slightly better Google Wallet; attempts to launch TV content service that is similar to what is provided by Netflix/Hulu/YouTube; HealthKit/HomeKit/CarPlay products very similar to what was on the market prior or about the same time, plus they were never adopted in serious numbers anyway, and Apple's push to use security/privacy as differentiators fell on deaf ears also ... and yes when Apple finally does introduce their own VR/AR products they will inevitably be compared to existing Google, Samsung, Sony etc. devices that are already being used by millions of people) goes on as attacks on competing products and the companies that make them will become more vehement and ridiculous and less fact-based. 

    What needs to happen is for Apple to get back to new ideas that are compelling, original and successful in the marketplace. Attacking Apple's competitors for merely existing - when competition is not only inevitable in a market economy but desirable and necessary - only reveals the frustration over this not happening. Not saying that the competitor's products are great or even very good - they aren't - but something always beats nothing and generally beats more of the same. 
    edited March 2017 brucemc
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