Google Looks at People As it Pledges To Fight Fake News and ‘Offensive’ Content

Google said today it is taking its first attempt to combat the circulation of “fake news” on its search engine. The company is offering new tools that will allow users to report misleading or offensive content, and it also pledged to improve results generated by its algorithm. From a report: While the algorithm tweaks should impact on general search results, the reporting tools have been designed for Google’s Autocomplete predictions and Featured Snippets which have been problematic in recent months. Updated algorithms should help to ensure more authoritative pages receive greater prominence, while low-quality content is demoted. Vice president of engineering at Google Search, Ben Gomes, admits that people have been trying to “game” the system — working against the spirit of the purpose of algorithms — to push poor-quality content and fake news higher up search results. He says that the problem now is the “spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information.”

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Google Tells Army of ‘Quality Raters’ To Flag Holocaust Denial

Google is using a 10,000-strong army of independent contractors to flag “offensive or upsetting” content, in order to ensure that queries like “did the Holocaust happen” don’t push users to misinformation, propaganda and hate speech. From a report on The Guardian: The review of search terms is being done by the company’s “quality raters”, a little-known corps of worldwide contractors that Google uses to assess the quality of its systems. The raters are given searches based on real queries to conduct, and are asked to score the results on whether they meet the needs of users. These contractors, introduced to the company’s review process in 2013, work from a huge manual describing every potential problem they could find with a given search query: whether or not it meets the user’s expectations, whether the result offered is low or high quality, and whether it’s spam, porn or illegal. In a new update to the rating system, rolled out on Tuesday, Google introduced another flag raters could use: the “upsetting-offensive” mark.

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AT&T, Apple, Google To Work On ‘Robocall’ Crackdown

Last month the FCC had pressed major U.S. phone companies to take immediate steps to develop technology that blocks unwanted automated calls available to consumers at no charge. It had demanded the concerned companies to come up with a “concrete, actionable” plan within 30 days. Well, the companies have complied. On Friday, 30 major technology companies announced they are joining the U.S. government to crack down on automated, pre-recorded telephone calls that regulators have labeled as “scourge.” Reuters adds: AT&T, Alphabet, Apple, Verizon Communications and Comcast are among the members of the “Robocall Strike Force,” which will work with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The strike force will report to the commission by Oct. 19 on “concrete plans to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions,” said AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson, who is chairing the group. The group hopes to put in place Caller ID verification standards that would help block calls from spoofed phone numbers and to consider a “Do Not Originate” list that would block spoofers from impersonating specific phone numbers from governments, banks or others.

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Google Announces Support of the Controversial TPP

An anonymous reader writes: Google has announced in a blog post Friday their support for the controversial Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP). Recode reports: “The trade agreement includes key provisions about the global passage of digital data, intellectual property and copyright — measures that have drawn criticism from both the political right and left, including several outspoken tech groups. Google’s endorsement isn’t exactly full-throated, but its stake clearly demonstrates another key area of support with the Obama administration, to which Google is close.” Google’s SVP and general counsel Kent Walker wrote: “The TPP is not perfect, and the trade negotiation process would certainly benefit from greater transparency. We will continue to advocate for process reforms, including the opportunity for all stakeholders to have a meaningful opportunity for input into trade negotiations.” The company has already shown support of the TPP behind the Internet Association, which endorsed the trade agreement in March. Google joins a list of other tech titans, like Apple and Microsoft, who have shown their support as well. The Electronic Frontier Foundation calls the TPP a “secretive, multinational trade agreement” that will restrict IP laws and enforce digital policies that “benefit big corporations at the expense of the public.” The TPP is still awaiting congressional approval after being signed in February.

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Google Appeals French Order For Global ‘Right To Be Forgotten’

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Alphabet Inc’s Google appealed on Thursday an order from the French data protection authority to remove certain web search results globally in response to a European privacy ruling, escalating a fight on the extra-territorial reach of EU law. In May 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that people could ask search engines, such as Google and Microsoft’s Bing, to remove inadequate or irrelevant information from web results appearing under searches for people’s names — dubbed the “right to be forgotten.” Google complied, but it only scrubbed results across its European websites such as Google.de in Germany and Google.fr in France, arguing that to do otherwise would set a dangerous precedent on the territorial reach of national laws. The French regulator, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL), fined Google 100,000 euros ($ 112,150.00) in March for not delisting more widely, arguing that was the only way to uphold Europeans’ right to privacy. The company filed its appeal of the CNIL’s order with France’s supreme administrative court, the Council of State. “One nation does not make laws for another,” said Dave Price, senior product counsel, Google. “Data protection law, in France and around Europe, is explicitly territorial, that is limited to the territory of the country whose law is being applied.” Google’s Transparency Report indicates the company accepts around 40 percent of requests for the removal of links appearing under search results for people’s names.

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Google Helps Police With Child Porn WebCrawler

The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that the Internet Watch Foundation, “an organization that works with police worldwide to remove images of child sexual abuse from the Internet, has credited Google with helping it develop a ‘Web crawler’ that finds child pornography.” The pilot project makes it easier to identify and remove every copy of specific images online, and the group says “We look forward to the next phase of the Googler in Residence project in 2016.” Last year Google also had an engineer working directly with the foundation, and the group’s annual report says “This was just one part of the engineering support Google gave us in 2015.” [PDF] Their report adds that the new technology “should block thousands of their illegal images from being viewed on the Internet.”

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Did Google and the Hour of Code Get “Left” and “Right” Wrong?

theodp writes: Command the dancers to “point left” in Google’s dance-themed Code Boogie learn-to-code tutorial on the Santa Tracker website, and the dancers actually point to their own right. The lesson seems to reinforce a common mistake made by younger children learning to code in LOGO, which is to use their own or the display screen’s frame of reference rather than the turtle’s frame of reference. “These misconceptions,” explained Richard E. Mayer, “may be due to the knowledge that the child brings with him or her to the programming environment. For example, children who possess an egocentric conception of space (Piaget & Inhelder, 1956) would fail to recognize that when the turtle is at a 180-degree orientation, its right corresponds to the child’s left.” So, it should probably be asked if the learn-to-code tutorials from Lucasfilm, Code.org, and Google that are being used to teach the world’s K-12 schoolchildren to code might be making the same mistake as 4-7 year-olds. In this year’s flagship flagship Lucasfilm/Code.org Star Wars Hour of Code tutorial, for example, command the droid BB-8 to move left and it could move to either its own left or right depending on what direction it’s pointed in. So, did the “Largest Learning Event in History” also get “left” and “right” wrong?

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Before Google There Was the Chemical Rubber Company

szczys writes: The CRC Handbook is one great example of how access to information has changed over the years. Now, you open up Google and find your answers. In decades past, hard data needed to solve engineering problems was embodied in volumes of text known as Databooks. One of the best known was the Chemical Rubber Company Handbook. Don’t let the name fool you, the CRC Handbook contained traits, properties, equations, and much more on all kinds of materials and techniques for using them. It’s still around today and has one big advantage over our searchable digital lives: you know you can trust the accuracy of the information in those books at face value while online information requires validation.

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Google Planning New Messaging App With AI Chatbots

An anonymous reader writes: The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is testing a new mobile messaging service. They say one of the defining new features of the service is the inclusion of AI-driven chatbots, which can answer questions asked of them in a conversational manner. Google veteran Nick Fox is reportedly running the team building the messaging service. It’s not clear what will become of Messenger or Hangouts, or when the product will launch. “Google would steer users to specific chatbots, much as its search engine directs users to relevant websites. The move is strategic, because messaging apps and chatbots threaten Google’s role as the Internet’s premier discovery engine.”

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