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.


Tech Companies Are Quietly Phasing Out a Major Privacy Safeguard

The silhouette of a man looking at a bright computer screen

This article from The Atlantic delves into the intricacies of data being gathered by giant tech companies. It discusses the implementation of transparency reports which is a document detailing the type of information being gathered of its users by tech companies. According to the author of this article these transparency reports used to be a widely acknowledged and well used resource available to the public. This initial interest in following the data came after the Edward Snowden crisis, where it was revealed that sensitive information was being collected and utilized by federal agencies. These reports lost their intial importance as tech companies stopped making them almost entirely to preserve their own vested interests.

Basically after a few years of relative data transparency, tech companies specifically internet providers stopped caring about transparency reports all together by changing the service providers of their customer base to providers who didn’t care about data transparency. Other tech companies changed their policies to not include what demands where being made by the federal government in what data they wanted. Consumers were aware of the data being collected, but were denied the reasoning behind the data collection. Data privacy activists have pushed for transparency reports to be made common place again, but the public by-in-large seems to not care about why the federal government wants their data in the first place.

There has been some push back against these questionable data policies. A bill passed in California last year, the California Consumer Privacy Act helped protect consumer protection and privacy rights, but had zero mention of reimplementing data transparency reports. Former President of Californians for Consumer Privacy Mary Stone Ross said in a quote that “We decided to only focus on the private collection of information rather than government collection” and that “During the campaign phase [we] were worried that the opposition would argue that the CCPA would undermine law enforcement investigations.” (Pegoraro, The Atlantic). It’s clear that most people don’t care what information tech companies hand over to the federal government, but care immensly that tech companies sell data collected on them to advertisers. I personally don’t agree with this line of thinking, I believe that transparency reports are more vital to consumer safety, and that the government shouldn’t be allowed to demand consumer data from tech companies.

How China Unleashed Twitter Trolls to Discredit Hong Kong’s Protesters

This article from the New York times talks about the surge in Pro-Beijing Tweets being circulated on Twitter disparaging and belittling protests in Hongkong. The significance of this article is extremely prevalent in todays world, Thousands of bot accounts are being manipulated to post anti-protest tweets during certain key times in order to flood Twitter with mass amounts of Pro-Chinese messaging. This isn’t the first time we have seen a world government take action on social media in order to influence a certain audience, back in 2016 during the presidential election it is well known that Russian intervention on Social media influenced and coerced American opinions on the presidential candidates.

Whats particullarly interesting in this case is we see Pro-Beijing tweets being posted in more than one language possibly in an attempt to spread their agenda and to better conceal the source of the tweets. Investigations into the accounts posting these tweets, have revealed that these tweets come from bot accounts not under the control of the Chinese Government, but more likely an indepedent organizations acting in the interest of the Chinese Government. Although Twitter is banned in China, it is still accessable in Hongkong meaning that the platform was choosen for its ability to spread information quickly and for its accessablility to the people who care and have a vested interest in the Chinese intervention in Hongkong.

Twitter has taken action against these bot accounts by continously banning and removing their content, but due to the sheer number of tweets the Pro-Beijing content contines to circulate. This strategy of spreading disinformation seems to be working its intended purpose. In the past China has largely relied on propaganda and censorship in order to suppress anti-government values, but due to the fast exchange and great spread of information on social media, the Chinese government saw a chance to change the current social attitude regarding China’s intervention in Hongkong.

Twitter expands political ad limitations: Latest update aimed at state-controlled news media

This article talks about a new policy Twitter is enforcing on their platform regarding advertising limitations. Specifically Twitter is no longer allowing state-controlled news sites to displaying advertisements on the platform. This is in response to the misuse of social media platforms by foreign powers (Russia) to influence the results of the 2016 election.

Twitter made the destinction that any state owned news media not dedicated to reporting the news as in purely entertainment, will not be subject to the new advertising policy. Public broadcasters are also covered in this category. State owned news media have 30 days to cease all advertising on Twitter before the new policy takes action. This new policy will have an interesting impact on digital marketers for state owned news media companies, as they will have to turn to create new ways to advertise to their audience on Twitter without using the platform. As for the potential impact of decreasing political advertising campaigns as a whole I feel their won’t be much of a difference in the long-run as long as other platforms don’t follow Twitter’s example.