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.
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
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