The Google Top Stories is completely flawed, with fake news and ‘moth-eaten’ stories consuming the front page of the search results.
Google’s News platform and Google Top Stories are notorious for spreading fake news and well-fabricated stories. This is not an opinion, it’s a fact that has been proven true from time and again. And apparently, Google hasn’t learned a thing from their past experiences, at least that’s what these shreds of evidence suggest.
The Onion. Does that name sound familiar to you? If not, The Onion is a satire website that publishes fabricated stories to, well, entertain you. However, the boundary between satire and real news is a vast gray area, and readers often mistake the satire websites of the likes of The Onion and Waterford Whispers News for real news organizations and their derisive stories for real news stories.
And, like adding fuel to the fire, Google is helping spread these fake stories through Top Stories as if their News platform wasn’t doing the job already. Now, mind you, I am totally cool with having The Onion on the Google News platform with appropriate label (“satire”). However, what I’m not cool with and what makes me really annoyed is seeing these hoax stories dominating the front page of the search results, making it difficult to differentiate the right from the wrong. It’s definitely not something I’d expect to see from a service that I, and millions of others, rely on for being a trust-worthy purveyor of news.
This is what Google had for me when I searched “iPhone” on 31st of March:
Google shows a satirical piece from The Onion on Top Stories’ snippets without labeling it as such. The headline of the article goes, “Police Reportedly Shoot Tim Cook After Mistaking iPhone For Gun”. WTF, Google!?
Now, that’s only one problem tricking the Google Top Stories’ algorithm. There are a plenty of others too.
For instance, check out these Top Stories carousels that I got when I searched for “LG V30 Plus“.
Though there were recent, more relevant articles for my search query, Google for some reason wanted me to check out these articles from December last year (snippets are showing wrong time of publishing). Now, it may be true that the publisher (FirstPost, in this case) is responsible for the altered snippet results. In this case, it’s likely that FirstPost made some changes in the server side, thus causing Google News bot to fetch their older content all over again. Or, maybe not! We wouldn’t know anyway.
But, does Google not have counter algorithms in place for tackling such circumstances? Because I sure as hell don’t want to be fed with ‘moth-eaten’ articles as if they are brand new.
Google’s $300 million-News Initiative
Google on March 20 announced a new initiative to tackle fake news and help legit news publishers make some bucks. The search engine giant is reportedly investing over $300 million to achieve three specific goals of the new initiative, and they are:
- Elevate and strengthen quality journalism
- Evolve business models to drive sustainable growth
- Empower news organizations through technological innovation
The initiative surely sounds ambitious and here is a hoping that this program will ultimately help fix the glaring issues of Google’s Top Stories and News platform.