Google presented a white paper titled “How Google Fights Disinformation” at the Munich Security Conference. The white paper provides details about Google’s work to tackle the spread of misinformation – across Google Search, Google News, YouTube and their advertising systems.
One thing Google is doing is giving users more context. Here is how they do that:
- “Knowledge: or “Information” Panels in Google Search and YouTube, providing high-level facts about a person or issue.
- Making it easier to discover the work of fact-checkers on Google Search or Google News, by using labels or snippets making it clear to users that a specific piece of content is a fact-checking article
- A “Full Coverage” function in Google News enabling users to access a non-personalized, in-depth view of a news cycle at the tap of a finger
- “Breaking News” and “Top News” shelves, and “Developing News” information panels on YouTube, making sure that users are exposed to news content from authoritative sources when looking for information about ongoing news events
- Information panels providing “Topical Context” and “Publisher Content” on YouTube, providing users with contextual information from trusted sources to help them be more informed consumers of content on the platform. These panels provide authoritative information on well-established historical and scientific topics that have often been subject to misinformation online and on the sources of news content, respectively.
- “Why this ad?” labels enabling users to understand why they’re presented with a specific ad and how to change their preferences so as to alter personalization of the ads they are shown, or to opt out of personalized ads altogether
- In-ad disclosures and transparency reports on election advertising, which are rolling out during elections in the US, Europe and India as a starting point
Google is also empowering users to let them know when they are getting it wrong by using feedback buttons across Search, YouTube, and Google’s advertising products to flag content that might be violating Google’s policies.
In addition, Google is partnering with outside experts. Some of those experts include:
- First Draft Coalition (which Google helped launch) – a non-profit that convenes news organizations and technology companies to tackle the challenges around combating disinformation online – especially in the run-up to elections
- Trust Project (which Google is a founding member of) – explores how journalism can signal its trustworthiness online. The Trust Project developed eight indicators of trust that publishers can use to better convey why their content should be seen as credible, with promising results for the publishers who have trialed them.
- Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) – a non-partisan organization gathering fact-checking organizations from the United States, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, India, and more.
In regard to political ads, the white paper says: “Finally, in order to help understand the context for the election-related ads they see online, we require additional verification for advertisers who wish to purchase political ads in the United States, provide transparency about the advertiser to the user, and have established an online transparency report and creative repository on US federal elections.”
There are a lot more details in the white paper than I have posted here. Overall, it appears to be a good start at fighting disinformation across Google’s products. Part of the white paper mentions “deep fakes”, which will likely be difficult to combat. Google is clearly aware of how malicious actors could use it, and seems to be at least attempting to get ahead of that.
This is a simple concept – a search engine that returns Google image results for the same search term from countries across the globe. The results are pretty compelling. Be forewarned – you could end up losing a decent amount of time to this site once you get started.
This Cultural Difference Image Engine (the site itself lacks explanatory info, so I’m making that name up) appears to be the work of a seasoned activist and tech veteran Aaron Swartz and accomplished artist Taryn Simon. The effect is to get a glimpse of what Google users in other countries see when they use the search engine. The results range from brow-furrowing to hilarious.
Based on the several dozen search queries I submitted, the clear winners for substance and style here are North Korea (spoiler alert – almost all results have nothing to do with what you searched for) and Syria, followed closely by France and Iran. Heck, they can all be pretty weird.
If you’re having a tough time figuring out where to start, you can get some pretty odd results from some foreign nations when you type in names of food. You’re on your own from there.
Image: Search Button from BigStock Photo
Google has updated their search app in the iTunes store for both the iPhone and iPad. I do recommend downloading it, but it is not without its problem. On the face of it the app is a way to search in the Chrome world on the iPad. When you search for something it pops up within the application, no going out to Safari. It uses instant search so it is very fast. If you click on a link in search, the link page shows up on the right side, but the search page still remains on the left tab, so you can easily go back and forth. If you are searching an image, you can open it to full size and then swipe to the next similar image like a carousel. You can do voice search which is great especially on the iPhone, where it can be hard to type.
The real strength though are the apps that are included within the Google Search Application. Now you can use Google Maps, Docs, Mail, Calendar in fact any app that is available through your google account is available through this application. Now you can up date your google docs or view your pictures in Picasa. However you can only view your pictures, you can’t add them from your iOS photo gallery. I tried to do a post on my personal blogger blog and I couldn’t figure an easy way to add links or photos. It is great for writing up the post, but you have to use the desktop version to add these. That is the problem with this app, there are a lot of things that you can’t do within this application that you can do with the web version of the application. The second problem is it does tend to crash a lot especially when it is working hard.
Despite these problems I do recommend downloading the app. Like a lot of Google products I expect it will improve overtime. Plus the fact that Apple has let an app into the market is actually surprising to some people, so how long it will stay there is a mystery. Have you tried the new Google Search app on your iOs device, what do you think of it.
If you are at all interested in search or Google you have no doubt noticed the on going battle between Google and Demand Media. The fight is over search ranking, the higher in search your site are the more likely people will go to your site, which for companies like Demand Media means more money. Many people complain that companies like Demand Media are simply content farms and that they are gaming Google search to the detriment of better sites. First what are content farms. Content farms are defined by most people as companies that use a large number of authors to crank out post. The posts are optimized for search by the use of keywords. The idea is to get as many hits to the web site they can. Demand Media is considered to be one of the biggest content farms by most critic. Below is a great visual guide to how Demand Media Works.
[Image Source: OnlineMBA.com]
[Image Source: OnlineMBA.com]
You will notice if you scan down toward the bottom of the image that Demand Media is at this time very successful financially. They are successful because they have figured out how the Google search algorithm works and they send users to their sites which means money thru the ads that Demand Media owns. Wall Street likes Demand Media’s business model and traffic growth. In January 2011 when Demand Media went public its stock was priced at $17 per share, the stock has not gone below $18 a share and has gone as high $26. Despite Wall Streets love affair with Demand Media many user and Google are not fans of Demand Media or other content farms. Articles written for these sites are often of low quality and are written by people who have little knowledge or interest in the subject they are writing about. Unfortunately because they are optimized for search, they tend to push more relevant and higher quality articles down the search results. In February 2011 Google made an update in their search algorithm. Prior to that Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer for Google wrote a post on Google’s Blog, acknowledging that content farms had become a significant problem for Google. Although Google has never verified that the changes in their search algorithm were targeting sites like Demand Media all paths point in that direction.
It is too early to tell if Google’s changes have had any effect on sites like Demand Media. In fact Demand Media’s EVP of Media and Operations, Larry Fitzgibbon, stated a week after the changes were made that they had seen little effects on the number of hits to their sites and for now the numbers seem to be bearing them out. In fact Googles changes maybe having more effect on sites that are not content farms such as Your Tango.
Clearly, this is not an easy problem to solve after all many articles written on sites like eHow, which is own by Demand Media are basic but good post and maybe exactly what the user is looking for. Also changes to the search algorithm effect not only content farms they also can have bad effects on legitimate sites such as Your Tango. The one change or addition that Google made around the same time as their algorithm changes is they added the ability for users to block sites from their individual search results. If users take advantage of this option then that will at least improve search for that user and hopefully over time for everyone. Unfortunately, Google can only do so much, as long as users click on these sites in Google Search they will continue to rise to the top of the search results, or as the cartoon Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”.