JAKARTA, INDONESIA | Amid the initiatives rolled out by Google to weed out fake news from the vast Internet landscape, the search giant admitted that its algorithms will never be foolproof due to the mountain of information being generated online on a daily basis and the inherent complexity of discerning what is true and not.
At a roundtable discussion here with Indonesian and Philippine journalists as part of the World Press Freedom Day celebration, Google Vice President of News, Richard Gingras, said their technology will always need the help of the community they operate in.
“No one wants to see Google as the arbiter of truth,” Gingras said. “It’s important to work with the journalism community to come up with organic solutions to problems.”
Technology companies such as Google and Facebook faced a slew of criticism recently, especially after the US elections when some pundits tagged such companies as allowing the proliferation of fake news on their sites that helped sway the elections. In the issue’s wake, such companies have launched revitalized features that would allow users to more easily spot questionable content.
But citing a recent study from the MIT media lab, Gingras said fake news was not in fact a major influence in the recent US election compared to hyper-partisan sites that peddled “near truths”. Such nuances between what is actually real, fake, and hyper-partisan, should also be taken into account said Gingras.
“We also need to be careful in how we use the term (fake news) as it’s not binary,” Gingras said.
Nevertheless, Gingras said they are not taking the issue lightly as the company have taken steps to help identify fake news sites in their search page, and in the same manner further elevate good content.
“In a sense it’s a cat and mouse game as we constantly put up defenses against people who want to trick our algorithms,” Gingras said.
As the company continues to refine its technology, Gingras said they will also continue to engage with their community as well as media institutions on how to make the content ecosystem better.