According to a recent blog post, Google employees say one of the biggest challenges in the Internet Age is the spread of “fake news.” To help the public get access to reliable online information, Google says it will work harder to filter out biased content and teach Web users basic media literacy skills.
Google’s top priority is to combat the rapid spread of unreliable stories that flood the Web during a breaking news event. The search engine giant says it will try its best to move reputable news stories to the “Top Stories” area of search results whenever major news breaks. As Google Vice President of News Richard Gingras put it in his blog article:
“To reduce the visibility of [unreliable news] during crisis or breaking news events, we’ve improved our systems to put more emphasis on authoritative results over factors like freshness or relevancy.”
The popular video-sharing company YouTube has also introduced a special “Breaking News” page to help direct viewers to more reputable news sources. Google purchased the rights to YouTube in 2006.
Google also says it is working with Santa Clara University’s Trust Project to quickly screen articles for trustworthiness. Research has shown that writers who follow the Trust Project’s eight rules for journalistic integrity build greater trust with their readers.
Some of the key factors the Trust Project looks for when researching a news story are the diversity of the employees at the news organization and the ability for readers to post comments. The Trust Project also prefers articles that clearly display their references and detail their research methodology.
Big news organizations that have agreed to be screened for trust factors include The Washington Post, The Economist, and .Mic. In addition to Google, tech companies like Facebook, Bing, and Twitter are actively involved with the Trust Project.
Screening out misinformation is critical for the wellbeing of democratic societies. With all of the scandal in the news surrounding Russia’s possible influence in the 2016 US Presidential Election, Google wants to ensure the most prominent political pieces on the Web are as unbiased and reliable as possible.
Ahead of many 2018 elections around the world, Google is working with the Harvard-based project First Draft to screen fake news articles using the most advanced algorithms. The tools First Draft and Google are developing look for synthetically manufactured articles obviously released for propaganda purposes.
In addition to breaking news, Google wants to improve the quality of articles people see when making health-related searches. Both members of the New York Times Health division and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are helping Google achieve this goal.
Of course, no matter how many filters Google and other companies put in place, bad info will still leak through online. That’s why Google is investing millions of dollars into education programs to teach people how to screen Web-based content for themselves.
In celebration of International Fact-Checking Day on April 2nd, reporters at Google News Initiative will hold seminars to teach thousands of people the markers of credible information. Google is also partnering with YouTube celebrities, Stanford University, and the Poynter Institute to teach young people how to verify credible information online.
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