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Google, Facebook Algorithms Promote 4chan Threads Identifying Wrong Man as Vegas Shooter

Accepted submission by takyon at 2017-10-04 01:13:06
Techonomics

Google has apologized on behalf of its algorithm(s) [theverge.com], which promoted a fake news story identifying the wrong man as the recent Las Vegas shooter:

After yesterday's mass shooting in Las Vegas, Google briefly gave its "Top Stories" stamp of approval [washingtonpost.com] to two 4chan threads identifying (and triumphantly smearing) the wrong man as the shooter. Google apologized [theoutline.com] for including "inaccurate" web pages in its top results, saying that its algorithm had spotted a burst of activity around a little-used search term (the name of 4chan's so-called suspect), created a Top Stories carousel, and favored "fresh" content there above more authoritative sources.

This is far from the first time [theverge.com] Google's search results have purveyed misinformation [theoutline.com]. In March, it finally instructed human quality raters — who manually evaluate web pages to train the Search algorithm — to flag offensive and factually incorrect material, which Search could then downgrade for users seeking general information about a topic. As the 4chan incident shows, though, it still has blind spots. And that's not really because of a problem with Google's algorithm. It's happening because Google's core business has never been about defining truth — yet that's what Top Stories is implicitly promising.

Facebook also promoted the "fresh" content [ap.org]:

[A] story by the pro-Trump political website "The Gateway Pundit" named a different person as the shooter, citing a Facebook page to claim the individual was "a far left loon" and "a Democrat who liked (MSNBC host) Rachel Maddow." Posters on the anonymous, anarchic 4chan.org forum likewise trumpeted supposed findings that the same individual was both the shooter and a "social democrat." BuzzFeed saved screenshots of the stories, which no longer turn up on either Gateway Pundit or 4chan.

[...] Facebook said its security team removed Gateway Pundit results and other similar posts from its social network, some within minutes. But because that removal was "delayed," the company said, images of the incorrect story were captured and circulated online.

"We are working to fix the issue that allowed this to happen in the first place and deeply regret the confusion this caused," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement.

Also at BBC [bbc.com].

Previously: Over 50 dead in mass shooting in Las Vegas [soylentnews.org]


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