Google has worked out a way to quash lying on the internet. The New Scientist reports that Google is interested in the idea of ranking websites based on facts, not merely the prevalence of incoming links.
Basically, researchers at the company believe they can clean up the internet and make veracity a rankable priority in search terms. After all, the web is full of falsehoods. Here is a list of some of them.
And BuzzFeed has a list of 35 “news” stories from 2014 that got serious clicks, but weren’t true at all. You’ll no doubt remember a few of them.
Sometimes fake facts on the internet are harmless fun — entertainment that is liked and shared simply because it’s entertaining. However, there are instances where websites climb the rankings that shouldn’t. This anti-vaccination website is one of the top search results for “vaccination,” for instance, even though it is full of information that is either wrong or harmful to children. (And the fact that Business Insider just linked to it has only compounded its superior ranking within Google’s results.)
At its core, Google ranks web pages based on the number of incoming links they receive. The assumption is that the more links a page has, the more important it must be on the web. The algorithm has been adjusted and modified hundreds or thousands of times over the years, of course, but incoming links are still a huge part of what determines any site’s ranking in a search. Google’s engineers adjust the algorithm periodically in hopes of making sure it returns the highest quality searches, not simply the most popular sites.
To weed out popular lies, Google has devised a method/model that measures the “truthfulness” of a web page instead of its online reach. A post on a blog might have a big reputation, but that doesn’t always mean it’s factual. As NS explains, instead of counting incoming links (a measure of its reach) Google’s new system could count the number of “facts” in the page. Each source is then analysed for how many lies it has and scored on that using something called a “Knowledge-Based Trust” score.
Google used its “Knowledge Vault” to qualify the information. That’s the company’s giant database of information, vetted facts and research.
Google’s lie detector isn’t live yet and it’s unlikely to launch any time soon. At this stage it’s simply a research paper published by Cornell University called “Knowledge-Based Trust: Estimating the Trustworthiness of Web Sources.”
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