Google to become final arbiter of “facts”?
Google recently published a research paper proposing that the world’s largest search engine change its ranking algorithms to dampen sites with a high number of “false facts”. The paper specifically uses the example of Barack Obama’s nationality, and New Scientist uses the specific example of “anti-vaccination sites”, leading some to speculate this is an effort to target “conspiracy theories” and alternative news.
It’s a worthy concern. Facebook not long ago launched a feature to do just that. When people don’t like a story that’s getting around, they can report it as false, and Facebook will dampen that link, no matter who shares it. I’m going to speak anecdotally about my own experience here for a moment, but I hope you’ll come to see the bigger picture. For those of us who make enemies on social media, this presents a pretty serious problem, because Facebook does not check these reports, at least not thoroughly. I have been banned from Facebook dozens of times, and usually it is because somebody reported something I posted as containing nudity, violence, or racism, where none existed. Those reports are made by ideological rivals for ideological purposes, and my voice is repeatedly and severely diminished as a result.
Whether the issue at hand is Facebook’s reporting system, or Google’s fact checking, those of us with unpopular ideas are going to be contradicting the vast majority of people out there, and a system that punishes us for doing so is troubling to say the least. For me, Facebook is my top referrer for traffic to this website, Google is my second. I imagine that I’m not alone in this. Algorithm changes of any sort damage my business and my voice, and they happen more frequently than you might imagine if you don’t monitor these things. Were the standard for relevancy to change to credibility, and to be measured by “how many people agree with him” I would essentially be erased from the Internet. That might sound like a good idea to some people, but I’m not the one you need to be concerned about.