April 25, 2017 Last Updated 10:47 am

Google introduces its latest search changes in effort to fight ‘fake news’

Latest changes involve ranking and New Search Quality Rater guidelines, but the revenue incentive to produce ‘fake news’ remains thanks to ad networks rewarding quantity over quality

The dominant search engine, Google, today said it has tweaked its algorithms in an effort to combat ‘fake news’. The changes will, the company said, “surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content.”

“Today, in a world where tens of thousands of pages are coming online every minute of every day, there are new ways that people try to game the system,” said Ben Gomes, VP Engineering at Google. “The most high profile of these issues is the phenomenon of “fake news,” where content on the web has contributed to the spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information.”

The first of the changes will be updated New Search Quality Rater guidelines, so that raters can flag “misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories.”

The second is ranking changes, to demote certain material, which letting the rest rise to the top, so to speak.

The increased feedback mechanism is at the heart of the changes, meaning that users are really the ones driving the process (I guess the term would be peer-to-peer self-regulating). One will see this in Google’s autocomplete which may still produce rather odd and hateful results, but now users can flag them and Google can more easily correct them. In other words, Google doesn’t want to have to deal with all the bad publicity it has been getting for racist and inaccurate search results.

In the end, while an improved search ranking system will be helpful, the real issue with ‘fake news’ is that there is an enormous financial incentive to produce it. Ad networks such as Google’s and Facebook’s are all about traffic and clicks, and fake news is clickable. The question then becomes whether the sources of this content should be accepted into the networks at all.

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