What News is Good News?

Fake news and sites have been a common source of concern over the last couple years, with many tech giants finding themselves as unintentional purveyors, as their various algorithms struggle to separate the fraudulent from the true. This has been of particular concern in the wake of tragedies, as more formal news sources are still performing research and confirming sources, but less scrupulous news outlets are able to flood the online world with speculation and deliberate misinformation.

Writing for PR Daily, Ted Kitterman provides a quick roundup of the online criticism of these tech giants, and their actions and responses to the distribution of fake news after the recent mass shooting in a Texas church. In particular, the integration between Google and Twitter was exploited, with the "Trending on Twitter" feature presenting unsourced tweets claiming, as noted by TechCrunch, that "the shooter was a Muslim convert; or a member of Antifa; or a Democrat supporter." While this information was displaced over time with more reputable sources, it still left aftereffects through the search engine, with The Atlantic noting that "despite the lack of any real evidence about the ideology behind the attack, a search for the shooter's name now suggests you might want to append 'antifa' to your search."

With Google remaining extremely protective of their code, this sort of short-term burst of misinformation seems likely to continue. As reported by Gizmodo, the effects can be devastating, noting "Google, Twitter, and Facebook have all regularly shifted the blame to algorithms when this happens, but the issue is that said companies write the algorithms, making them responsible for what they churn out."