The Google Feature Magnifying Disinformation

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal speaks silhouetted in front of a large screen that says "Google."

This article from The Atlantic discusses the unitended problems that have stemmed from disinformation being utilized in their knowledge panels. Google knowledge panels are panels that show up at the top of Google search results that are suppose to give a brief but succint information on a people, organizations, etc. These knowledge panels utilize algorithms to quickly grab pertinant information from a wide range of online sources, one of the chief ones being wikipedia. As useful as these panels can be for quick searches, it has been made clear in this article that misinformation plagues Google knowledge panels. The author of this article introduces the reader to this discourse by using Martin John Byrant, a tech consultant who happens to share the same exact name as the shooter from the Port Arthur massacre. According to google knowledge panel, the shooter is the first result posted when you google Martin John Byrant. You can see how this might have an effect on someones career as his identity has been effectively tied to this shooter, because of Google’s algorithms.

Martin is not the first to have been wronged by misinformation being spread on Google knowledge panels. Countless actors and political offices in the United States and abroad have faced issues dealing with misinformation being acredited to their identity or lack thereof in Google Knowledge panels. Google has a feature to report false information on their knowledge panels, but for relatively unimportant people like Martin John Byrant his requests have been ignored. Martin Considered the though of trying to buy the knowledge panel, but apparently Google does not allow the transfer of ownership of knowledge panels. Another glaring issue with the spread of misinformation on google knowledge panels is wikipedia. As most know Wikipedia is a public source that can be edited by anybody. So false information can infact be spread to google knowledge panels by editing certain wikipedia pages.

Google has acknowledged the increasing issue knowledge panels play in presenting misinformation online. They even published a white paper called, “How Google fights Disinformation”, where they go into detail how knowledge panels are a tool for users to get context and to better avoid deceptive content. Google refused to include any information about their algorithms stating that “sharing too much of the granular details of how our algorithms and processes work would make it easier for bad actors to exploit them”. I personally think Google needs to work on their algorithms, its clear the current formula isn’t doing anyone favors.


One thought on “The Google Feature Magnifying Disinformation

  1. I agree that Google definitely does not have a good grip on the misinformation their engine sends. It’s very hard to monitor fact versus opinion or fiction and an algorithm isn’t smart enough to learn about the ways humans make stories sound very real.


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