Commentary

How Google Helps Spread Fake News For 1%ers

Google dominates the online search business, giving it enormous power over how readers discover publishers' digital content. Unfortunately, the company also helps to spread fake news because it hasn't created an algorithm that's sophisticated enough to fact-check.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported a story that illustrates how wealthy people can scrub their online reputations by hiring a company that creates content for sites that pose as legitimate news publishers.
Jacob Gottlieb, a hedge fund manager who wanted to distance himself from past scandals, such as the collapse of a prior fund and a messy divorce, paid a company called Status Labs from $4,000 to $5,000 a month to help create a more positive online image. The company created articles that appeared on websites designed to look like independent media outlets, the WSJ reported.
Most of the articles had flattering things to say about Gottlieb — and started to show up prominently in Google searches, including its news aggregation site. The WSJ's reporting led the search giant to remove five websites from Google News because they violated its policies on deceptive practices.
As one example, a sited called Medical Daily Times published a glowing article about Gottlieb's donation to New York University’s medical school. Gottlieb has donated to the school, but the story about the donation was slightly inaccurate.
Everything else about the story, such as its publisher, appears to be fake. The Medical Daily Times story was written by BJ Hetherington, whose author page includes a photo of a Canadian theater actor. A phone number for Medical Daily Times reaches a pizza joint in Toronto, the WSJ reported.
The WSJ's story again highlights how garbage goes into Google, and garbage comes out. The company was never created to be a media watchdog, but its popularity as a search engine practically ensures fake news and misinformation can proliferate on its platform.
That should worry anyone who is concerned about how propaganda efforts will shape the opinions of voters in next year's election. As independent newspapers die off in this country, fake news is filling the void they leave behind.

advertisement

advertisement

>
Next story loading loading..