Google is telling fibs again when it says it’s dealing with “fake news” sites: more proof

Above: Good news, Newsroom and The Spinoff are there in Google News.
Further to my blog post last night, I decided to look at Google News to see who had the latest on our PM, Jacinda Ardern. Feeding in her name, the above is the results’ page.
   I had thought that I had never seen Newsroom, which I make a point of checking out ahead of corporate, foreign-owned media such as Stuff and The New Zealand Herald, on Google News, but it turns out that I was wrong: its articles do appear. That’s a positive.
   But scroll down this page and see what else does.

Above: Bad news: Google News is quite happy to have “fake news” content mills in its index, something that would never have happened 10 years ago.
   I have said in the past that Google News has itself to blame for allowing, into its index, illegitimate websites that have no journalistic integrity. I think this screen shot proves it.
   The last two sources: 10,000 Couples and Insider Car News—the latter, in fact, so fake that it doesn’t even use the ASCII letters for its name (it’s Іnsіdеr Cаr Nеws), which is a common spammers’ trick—have made it into Google News. Neither is legit, and the latter has “content mill” writ large in its title. Surely an experienced editor at Google News would have seen this.
   Once upon a time, Google News would never have allowed such sites into this part of its index, and it was strict on checking what would make it. Evidently there is no standard now.
   If you want to look at “fake news”, here is a wonderful example: it’s not just on Facebook.
   No wonder some legitimate, well regarded websites are suffering all over the world. If this is representative of Google’s effort at shutting down fake-news operators, as it has claimed it is doing, then it is a dismal failure. Google, perhaps like Facebook, does not seem interested in dealing with fakes at all. In fact, it’s quite happy to shut legitimate sites down and accuse them of malware.
   It reinforces my point that we need alternatives right now to save the internet from itself. The trouble is whether the internet community is going to bother, or if we’re happy being sheeple.

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5 thoughts on “Google is telling fibs again when it says it’s dealing with “fake news” sites: more proof

  1. One problem with this, Jack – do you really want Google deciding for you which sites have journalistic integrity? What if Google is run by conservatives who think FOX News is legit, but denigrate the New York Times or Washington Post as “biased liberal media” or “fake news”? Or vice versa?

    The real problem, unfortunately, is a lack of discernment, critical thinking, or desire to have their own beliefs challenged among READERS. Too many of them believe The Onion is real news, despite pretty clear labeling and actual parody (as opposed to outright LIES masquerading as parody).

    I’m not sure I’d want your site buried in the search results or labeled “fake news” here, just because it’s based outside the U.S. How do we ensure that doesn’t happen?

    How do we police the police?

  2. Whatever system Google had in place ten, or even five, years ago seemed to work. Someone there seemed to care about what sites made it into Google News. Both your conservatives and liberals were served, and non-US readers were as well. Yes, readers enjoyed keeping within their own bubbles, but that’s their choice: at least Google News served up “legitimate” (at least within their worldview) sources, not something cooked up randomly by netizens whose only motivation is selling Google ads.
       Then we began seeing one-person blogs make it in there, and now I discover content mills and spammers. At one point, Google did decide who had journalistic integrity—and whomever was there monitoring the sources understood what that meant. Like fake Facebook accounts you and I spot, a “fake news” site is frightfully easy to identify—but whomever let through the two examples (and others) I write of clearly does not know how to do that.
       As to which sites get buried, that’s another story: Google News has been cozying up to corporate media (my earlier post). It seems the best way around that is to abandon Google altogether, but we know that isn’t going to happen, so we have to keep the pressure on.

  3. I doubt Google had journalistic integrity; I suspect it’s far simpler: individuals started calling their own blogs “news” and themselves “reporters” and Google’s algorithms accorded them that legitimacy based on keywords like “news” and “citizen journalist” and “reporting on”.

    Where Google went wrong – and who could blame them, since like everyone else, they have to keep the lights on, and the servers running – is in promoting sites based on their willingness and ability to PAY for better placement in the search results.

    You’re just seeing the death of search engine integrity. There never was any editorial judgment about which news organizations were reliable and which were fake.

  4. Possibly, though I remember when blogs were not permitted—Google used to be very clear that sites submitted to News had to be real media operations. It’s very likely people scammed that to get in. Since Facebook can get fooled by fakes, then so can Google, since all these big Silicon Valley operations have the same people circulating about.
       If this is the death, then it has been a long time coming. People still rank Google high on their “favourite brands” lists—to me that has not been deserved since 2009.

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