We are all familiar with the term “fake news.” For those of us who are not inclined to believe everything we see and half of what we hear, this means extra time in our searches to check sources and review everything we read for accuracy. It’s a sad and scary indictment on our society. Enough said.

The problem is that, like everything else, once news, real or fake, hits the internet it is picked up by believers and spreads like a, well virus! So, who do we blame for the “virality?” Social media? Search engines? I suspect we can say all of it. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Google are all doing what they’re supposed to do, share information. Those of us, regardless of our political perceptions, who are sick and tired of fake news and trying to filter out the facts from fiction (or hyperbole) will be happy to hear that Google and Facebook have heard our pleas (read outrage) regarding the proliferation of fake news through their mechanisms and are working to fix this problem. Google’s new update (out in late April) called “Project Owl” and Facebook policy updates that use the algorithm already in place for “click bait” posts and more recently by hiring certified fact checkers.

Fake News and Google

Search auto-complete results (image from Fortune Article–link to source in post)

Project Owl is the newest update Google implemented in April that “gives consumers two new ways to report what they perceive as problems in the search results. The company is also using teams of humans as part of an effort to get its algorithms to show more reliable information.” (Source: Fortune Article)  What this means is that Google has update the auto-complete function in their search bar to give consumers the option of flagging false or inappropriate results. If the report link is clicked a popup window opens for providing feedback. Additionally, the search engine will start ranking higher a site with “more authoritative” information rather than basing ranking on the popularity of a website. “More authoritative” can be seen as objective, but google is also hiring high quality raters to review results. Between that and the human interface, there have already been changes to the results. This is good news, but for another viewpoint and thoughts about the effect the Project Owl update will have on website owners, see this article from Search Engine Watch.

Facebook and Fake News

Facebook had already started to work on unwanted content, specifically “click bait,” or those intriguing headlines that that entice users to click only to find that the article is really an advertisement or not the expected story. In the face of angry users clamboring for solutions to the fake news infestation, Facebook is now using their algorithm along with user input to weed out fake news as well. But on top of that they are partnering with fact checkers in the US and abroad to flag posts that are fake news.

I understand that Twitter is on the move to try and provide a platform for users to report fake news as well.

I’m interested in seeing what the outcome is from the attempt to tamp fake news, is it truly possible? I’m not completely sure it is and I would be interested in finding out your thoughts about it. Do you think, given that there are so many various opinions, perceptions and objectives, that we can find the real truth–is there a real truth?