Apparently, the world’s leading search engine (by a very wide margin) feels that we aren’t capable of discerning the difference between news that is propaganda and news that is real.  Recent developments that received almost no coverage by the western media show us the lengths that Google is willing to go to in its efforts to protect us from Russian-sourced fake news.

Before we go any further in this posting, let’s look at a study from 2009 that looked at users online behaviour.  According to the study which looked at the internet behaviour of 109 subjects, 91 percent did not go past the first page of internet search engine results and 36 percent of subjects did not go beyond the first three search results.  This means that any external “adjustments” to search engine results could be used introduce a significant bias from the perspective of users.   

At the recent Halifax International Security Forum held in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada for those of you that aren’t familiar with Canadian geography), during a question and answer session, Alphabet’s (the parent company of Google) Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt made some very interesting and telling comments.

The basic question asked of Dr. Schmidt at the beginning of his exchange with the moderator and various members of the audience was “What is Google doing to fight extremism and fake news“.

Here are excerpts from his responses to several questioners:

“Ten years ago, I thought that everyone would be able to deal with the internet because the internet, we all knew, was full of falsehoods as well as truths.  It’s been joked for years that the sewer part of the internet, crazy people, crazy ideas and so forth.  But the new data is that the other side, actors that trying to either to spread misinformation or worse, have figured out how to use that information for their own good whether it’s amplification around a message or repeating something a hundred times so that people actually believe even though it’s obviously false and that kind of thing.  My own view is that these patterns can be detected and that they can be taken down or de-prioritized.  One of the sort of problems in the industry is that we came from, shall we say, a more naive position, right, that illegal actors and that these actors would not be so active.  But now, faced with the data and what we’ve seen from Russia in 2016 and with other factors around the world, we have to act….

Related...

The most important thing, I think that we can do is to ensure that as the other side gets more automated, we also are more automated.   The way to think about it is that much of what Russia did was largely manual, literally troll farms as they’re called, of human beings in Moscow.  We know this because they were operating on Moscow time and were appearing to operate in Virginia and Ohio and Wyoming and so forth and you can imagine the next round of that will be much more automated.

We started with the general American view that bad speech will be replaced by good speech in a crowded network and the problem in the last year is that that may not be true in certain situations especially when you have a well-funded opponent who’s trying to actively spread this information.  So, I think everyone is sort of grappling with “Where is that line” (i.e. the line of censorship).    

I am strongly not in favour of censorship, I am very strongly in favour of ranking and that’s what we do…You would de-rank, that is lower rank, information that was repetitive, exploitive, false, likely to have been weaponized and so forth.”

It’s very difficult for us to ascertain truth.

Given that background on Dr. Schmidt’s preferred approach to fake news, the following comments are particularly telling.  When asked by a questioner if it was necessary for Google to monetarize “Russian propaganda outlets” such as Sputnik with Google Adsense, a function that provides Sputnik with income when a reader clicks on a Google Ad that is displayed on a webpage, Dr. Schmidt answered:

“So, we’re well aware of this one ande are working on detecting this kind of scenario you are describing and again, de-ranking those kinds of sites.  It’s basically RT and Sputnik are the two and there’s a whole bunch of coverage about what we’re doing there.  But we’re well aware of it and we’re trying to engineer the system to prevent it.  We don’t want to ban the sites, that’s not how we operate.”

Given that most users go no further than the first page of search engine results, one can see how easily Google could manipulate “the news” to nearly eliminating the Russian viewpoint.

With that, let’s look at how Google/Alphabet/Dr. Schmidt assisted financially during the latest election cycle:

Here are the top recipients:

Note that Hillary Clinton received $1.588 million compared to Donald Trump’s very meagre $22,564.  Perhaps at least some of Dr. Schmidt’s angst about Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 U.S. election is connected to the fact that his candidate of choice lost.

Having spent some time in Russia, I found that there were no access problems to websites from around the world.   From my perspective, it certainly did not appear that the Russian government was doing anything to prevent its citizens from accessing all of the content that they wish to access from anywhere in the world.  What’s next? is Google going to write an algorithm that will prevent Russians Chinese and other people around the world from reading their own government’s “propaganda” that may be not particularly pro-Washington and, by doing so, force them to read the American version of the “truth”.

If you wish to watch the entire interaction with Dr. Schmidt, you can go to the link here.  His comments start at the 1 hour and six minute mark. 

I’ve said it before.  George Orwell was right, he was just a few decades ahead of his time.  Non-government actors in the United States, including Google, have learned an important lesson from the 2016 election and we can pretty much assure ourselves that the next election will see significant massaging when it comes to what we read and hear.  At least when it comes to Google, we know that they have our backs when it comes to fake news.

Source: This article was published oyetimes.com By Glen Asher

Categorized in How to

Here's how you can identify and avoid sites that just want to serve up ads next to outright falsehoods.

You don't need Socrates to tell you that some websites spin crazy, made-up yarns just so you'll click a link.

False information and fake news have been a problem on the internet almost since the beginning. The situation is so bad, one website, Snopes.com, is dedicated to debunking crazy internet tales and rumors that pop up like digital cockroaches.

The issue rose to prominence again with the election of Donald Trump, which critics say was aided by fake news reports that were rampant across social media, especially Facebook. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called that notion "pretty crazy" but says his company is working to clamp down on bogus articles.

In the fervor over whether Facebook should do something to separate fiction from fact, you may have wondered how you could figure out whether an article is worth clicking on. Here's our advice on how to flag false stories that just want to take you for every click you're worth.

What is 'fake news?'

First of all, let's be clear: We're not talking about websites with paid journalists who fact-check their reporting and build their brands on accuracy. (Reputable companies have rules on fact-checking. CNET's reporters and reviewers are required to verify information and back it up with links to source material such as press releases, videos and websites.)

The issue is that legitimate news stories get mixed in with everything else on your Facebook "news" feed. That includes stories from websites that are posing as news sources to harvest your clicks. What's more, even if you click a link to a well-researched Wall Street Journal story, Facebook could show you related stories from sites that don't meet those same standards.

As CNET News Editor-in-Chief Connie Guglielmo pointed out, the problem here is that everything in social media is treated like news, with no distinctions.

How to flag fake news sites

The best tool at your disposal, of course, is common sense. No matter what your political bent, if a story serves only to reinforce your beliefs, it's best to be extra skeptical before sharing it.

If a report is purportedly based on other news stories, find the original source of the information. You might find some of the quotes are correct, but the rest may have been taken out of context or fabricated.

If the potentially false story you're reading doesn't link to an original source, well, that's a bad sign. Use a search engine to look for the keywords in the story to see if that "news" is being reported by any other outlets.

Some stories, intentionally or not, read like satire. If it sounds like it could be a headline on the Onion, it's best to double-check the story.

Also check the URL. If it has a strange ending, think twice about the story. An article claiming President Barack Obama banned the national anthem at US sporting events -- false, if you were wondering -- came from a website with the suffix ".com.de," which makes no sense.

No, this is not a real story.

Finally, don't trust a photograph. If you see a compelling photo and are just itching to share the story behind it, try this first:

  • Take a screenshot of the photo, cropping out everything but the image itself.
  • Open up Google Images in your browser.
  • Drag the screenshot into the Google Images search field.

Google will tell you its best guess as to who or what is pictured and where the image originated.

I tried this on a black-and-white photo that ran with a meme about Susan B. Anthony. The photo showed a woman in a Victorian gown lying in the street as police and bystanders stood over her. It turned out the suffragist in the photo was Britain's Ada Wright, not Anthony.

Pro tip: You can do this with photos from dating and real estate websites too, and you might catch a scammer while you're at it!

More ways to flag fake news sites

Programmers have put their heads down to come up with tools that can flag unverified reports in your social-media feeds.

For example, three students programmed a browser plugin that automatically evaluates stories linked in social media and highlights those that have been debunked elsewhere. The cute name for the plugin: FiB.

The plugin isn't available for download yet, but the students are enlisting help in finishing it, through an open-source project.

New York Magazine writer Brian Feldman programmed a plugin too -- it's not automated, but it checks articles against a list of known fake news sites put together by Merrimack College media professor Melissa Zimdars.

Who's writing this fake news?

According to a Buzzfeed story, young people in Macedonia created more than 100 pro-Trump websites to spread false news. The motive wasn't political; it was to make money off your clicks.

Maybe we should be glad they're not turning to cybercrime to capitalize on our collective naivete, like young people in other parts of Eastern Europe have done. Still, it's pretty strange to think that Macedonian website owners were gaming Google's or Facebook's ad programs to make money off fake-but-viral news stories.

Google and Facebook each said on Monday that they will ban fake news sites from using their respective ad-selling software.

Snopes also has a guide to fake news sites, some of which are political and some of which are simply purveyors of wild and wacky lies.

The election may be over, but there's still plenty of fake news to go around.

First published November 19 at 5 a.m. P

Update, 11:10 a.m.: Adds link to story about Friday night comments from Mark Zuckerberg.

Source : cnet.com

Author : Laura Hautala

Categorized in Social

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