Google recently presented a white paper at a digital-security conference in Germany, in which the search giant detailed all the steps it is taking across its various divisions—YouTube, Google News and Google Search—to fight misinformation and disinformation. The company said it is working hard in a number of areas including using quality signals to help surface better content, which involves relying on human search curators to determine whether something is a high-quality result for a specific query. Google also noted that it has been adding more “context” for searches, including links to related information, as well as different ways of notifying users that certain results have been fact-checked by reliable organizations. And the company said it is trying to crack down on trolls and hackers who hijack accounts or pretend to be someone they are not.
These kinds of efforts are clearly worthwhile, given the kind of influence and reach that Google products have. Facebook continues to get the bulk of the press (mostly bad) for its role in helping to weaponize misinformation networks during the 2016 election and elsewhere, but Google’s search and recommendation algorithms arguably have more impact—it’s just not as visible or as obvious as Facebook’s. The search company has taken full advantage of its somewhat lower profile whenever the topic comes up: During multiple congressional hearings into misinformation and the election, Google has pushed the idea thatsince it isn’t a social network, it doesn’t suffer from the same kinds of problems as Facebook, where social sharing makes misinformation go viral and algorithms exacerbate the problem.