THE internet is stuffed with garbage. Anti-vaccination websites make the front page of Google, and fact-free “news” stories spread like wildfire. Google has devised a fix – rank websites according to their truthfulness.
Google’s search engine currently uses the number of incoming links to a web page as a proxy for quality, determining where it appears in search results. So pages that many other sites link to are ranked higher. This system has brought us the search engine as we know it today, but the downside is that websites full of misinformation can rise up the rankings, if enough people link to them.
A Google research team is adapting that model to measure the trustworthiness of a page, rather than its reputation across the web. Instead of counting incoming links, the system – which is not yet live – counts the number of incorrect facts within a page. “A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy,” says the team (arxiv.org/abs/1502.03519v1). The score they compute for each page is its Knowledge-Based Trust score.
The software works by tapping into the Knowledge Vault, the vast store of facts that Google has pulled off the internet. Facts the web unanimously agrees on are considered a reasonable proxy for truth. Web pages that contain contradictory information are bumped down the rankings. …
How in the world do they propose to account for the effect of corporate money (e.g. pharmocorporate money, see the dismissive passage on vaccine concerns above) on which “facts” are held as gospel by the majority? Google has no faith in its users’ intelligence or the natural tendency of sites that pass on disinformation to be ignored by other sites. It also ignores the impact its “truth” algorithm will have on its own validity over time, as sites that host controversial information will tend to go offline for lack of use, rendering the net and the algorithm increasingly biased toward conventional wisdom as the dissidents disappear from the net. It will become a web equivalent of the mainstream media, just another echo chamber for the dominant well-funded memes which so often prove to be boring, non-insightful and downright wrong. This is an algorithm for collective self-delusion. It’s not how healthy, inquisitive, creative and intelligent human neural nets operate. There should always be room for doubt and questioning or paradigm shifts will never happen.
People interested in real research will go elsewhere.