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Google has ‘a terrible problem’ with its search algorithm being manipulated by the far right, said data scientist Cathy O’Neil [Image: Yui Mok/PA].

Google has ‘a terrible problem’ with its search algorithm being manipulated by the far right, said data scientist Cathy O’Neil [Image: Yui Mok/PA].

Bizarrely, this manipulation by right-wing hate-propagandists could have a beneficial effect – Google may end up employing human editors to ensure the company evades any… legal entanglements.

But the issue of fake news is huge. Tom Watson may have made a fool of himself, attacking The Canary for no very good reason, but there is a serious point here.

If right-wing manipulators are spreading disinformation, they are to be countered – or people will make political decisions based on this nonsense and who knows where we’ll end up?

The article states that Jonathan Albright, assistant professor of communications at Elon University, North Carolina, said right wing websites had launched a new “information war”, and were winning.

His research has shown that fake news and information is a far bigger structural problem than had been previously realised. He has mapped a “vast satellite system that is encroaching on the mainstream news system”.

Websites propagating extreme right wing propaganda have thrown out thousands of hyperlinks that connect to each other and to mainstream news sources, such as YouTube and Facebook, and he says they “are growing in strength and influence every day”.

How do we fight this?

Google must urgently review its search ranking system because of “compelling” evidence that it is being “manipulated and controlled” by rightwing propagandists, leading academics have said, after the Observer reported that hate sites are now dominating searches on Muslims, Jews, Hitler and women.
Cathy O’Neil, a data scientist and the author of Weapons on Math Destruction, said that unless Google acknowledged responsibility for the problem, it would be a “co-conspirator” with the propagandists. “This is the end for Google pretending to be a neutral platform,” she said. “It clearly has a terrible problem here and it has to own and acknowledge that.

“It simply can’t go on pretending that it has no editorial responsibilities when it is delivering these kinds of results. It is simply not defensible for it go on claiming ‘plausible deniability’. It has clearly become a conduit for rightwing hate sites and it must urgently take action.”

Google had removed the lines suggesting that Jews and black people are evil and that blacks “commit more crimes”, but it is still suggesting Muslims were “bad” and that Islam “should be destroyed”. While Facebook has faced criticism in the wake of revelations about how the site had become a conduit for fake news, the problem facing Google is potentially even more intractable.

Source: Google ‘must review its search rankings because of rightwing manipulation’ | Technology | The Guardian

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