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article imageGoogle's 'In the news' section being removed to stop fake news

By James Walker     Nov 22, 2016 in Technology
Google is planning to remove the "In the news" section from its desktop search pages in an effort to combat the proliferation of fake news. It comes shortly after the feature promoted a WordPress blog post claiming Donald Trump won the popular vote.
Facebook has recently been attracting a lot of attention for its fake news problem. It isn't the only online platform to be having trouble though. While Google has largely avoided fake news by sticking to automated ranking, recently its standards have started to slip.
Last week, the top "In the news" article for searches related to the final election results was a post on a WordPress blog called 70 News. The fake report claimed Donald Trump won the popular vote by a margin of 700,000 votes, citing Twitter posts as a source. It remains unknown exactly how the ".wordpress.com" site managed to make it to the top of Google's promoted news articles.
A few hours after the error was noticed, Google announced it is moving to ban fake news from its platform. It will be blocking publishers who create deliberately deceptive articles from its AdSense platform, separating them from their income.
Google promoting a fake news article to the top of its news results
Google promoting a fake news article to the top of its news results
Now the company plans to go further, according to a Business Insider report today. It will soon remove the "In the news" search section from its desktop pages, preventing a similar incident from occurring again. It could also make it harder to find trending articles using Google though.
The problems with "In the news" stem from its differences with Google News which few users are aware of. "In the news" is not the same as Google's News service. Sites that appear in Google News are verified by Google as newsworthy and given approval to promote their articles in the stream. The unrelated news module does not have any monitoring procedures. It searches for content with a news focus from across the web and will include anything it finds relevant.
It's thought 70 News was included in the "In the news" section because it appeared to be a news site from the widget's point of view. It made its way to the top of the section as more people found the article and continued to read it. With the news module unable to verify its authenticity, the article was given a low spam rating because of the high volume of traffic to the site.
It is not clear whether Google is developing a replacement for the "In the news" widget. It could rebuild it on top of the more robust Google News architecture so only pre-approved sites are included.
The original version of the module was based on this premise but Google later changed its functionality to feature more sites, sometimes exposing unreliable sources as a consequence. The company wanted to promote a "diverse range of voices" from across the Internet, according to search engine news site Search Engine Land in October 2014.
Google is evidently taking the opportunity to rethink its fake news procedures while the issue is topical. Continuing to promote deceptive articles could lead to users looking elsewhere and turning to rival search engines. By limiting exposure to users and restricting revenue for publishers, the company could help to reverse the current fake news trend.
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