Google Home Speaker Criticized For Spreading Fake News

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Google's search algorithms came under renewed fire on Sunday after the BBC highlighted examples in which the company's Google Home smart speaker promotes "fake news" and conspiracy theories through its virtual assistant.

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones tweeted a video yesterday that appears to show the smart device responding to the question "Is Obama planning a coup?" with the reply: "Obama may in fact be planning a Communist coup d'etat at the end of his term in 2016."


In another example, Search Editor Land editor Danny Sullivan asked his Google Home "Are Republicans fascists?", to which it replied: "Yes. Republicans equals Nazis."

As pointed out by Business Insider, the fault lies in Google's Featured Snippets feature, which corrals data from the web to provide the user with a supposedly definitive answer to a query typed into the Google search bar.

A version of the feature powers Google Assistant, the company's voice-activated virtual assistant, which is built into the Google Home smart speaker and some smartphones. The algorithms Google uses to verify online sources of information appear to be at fault, but the issue is arguably worse on smart devices because the answers they provide are plucked from the web without context since users are not actively viewing the source.
A Google spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement that "Featured Snippets in Search provide an automatic and algorithmic match to a given search query, and the content comes from third-party sites. Unfortunately, there are instances when we feature a site with inappropriate or misleading content. When we are alerted to a Featured Snippet that violates our policies, we work quickly to remove them, which we have done in this instance. We apologise for any offense this may have caused."
Google has come in for criticism before for its predictive search results, but the problem of "fake news" in particular was identified during last year's U.S. Presidential election, and led companies like Facebook to make statements about the action they have taken to bring the quality of articles to users' attention.

Apple is also said to be working on ways to ensure its content delivery services can identify and prevent conspiracy theories being peddled as legitimate news, according to Apple's senior vice president of software and services, Eddy Cue. "We're trying to do some things in Apple News, we're learning from that and we need to share that together as an industry and improve it," he said last month.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called fake news "one of today's chief problems" and that "we have to give the consumer tools" to deal with the challenge.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Article Link: Google Home Speaker Criticized For Spreading Fake News
 

DearthnVader

macrumors 65816
Dec 17, 2015
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Red Springs, NC
Hmmm, lol, this is the early days of consumer AI. I don't know anyone that wouldn't LTAO at these replies.

So this is the tech that's going to steal my job, it thinks Obama was planning a coup and Republics are Nazis, I wish I had one of these things driving a 13' tall 80' long 80,000 pound truck full of jet fuel in my direction.:D
 
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WordsmithMR

macrumors 6502
Mar 17, 2015
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Tired of hearing the terms "Fake News" and "Alternative Facts"...

What happened to the simple words "Lie", "Misinformation" and "Unfounded".
Republicans thought that changing the words would make their citizens believe them. Unfortunately... it has worked with their constituents.
 

TonyC28

macrumors 68000
Aug 15, 2009
1,683
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USA
Speaking of fake news, the Google speaker didn't just reply "yes, ....", it first cited the source. At least it gives the person asking the question a chance to understand the source. As far as journalism goes, I would say that the way this article quotes the responses is incorrect.
 

coolfactor

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2002
4,610
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Vancouver, BC
Speaking of fake news, the Google speaker didn't just reply "yes, ....", it first cited the source. At least it gives the person asking the question a chance to understand the source. As far as journalism goes, I would say that the way this article quotes the responses is incorrect.
Agreed about this. MacRumors dropped the ball by saying that the responses have "no context".

...but the issue is arguably worse on smart devices because the answers they provide are plucked from the web without context, so users often remain unaware of their source.
The source was clearly spoken. So how often is "often"?
[doublepost=1488806549][/doublepost]
If you're stupid enough to ask those questions to begin with (in a serious manner) you probably deserve those answers. Maybe Google just has a very dry sarcastic wit.
I do agree with this, that the intelligence of the "operator" is a big factor. If that operator then goes and repeats that "news", they are part of the problem.

There needs to be two buttons on these smart devices... "Agree" and "Disagree"... or do we go with the "Like/Love/+1" buttons that have overtaken the social web?
 
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EdT

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Speaking of fake news, the Google speaker didn't just reply "yes, ....", it first cited the source. At least it gives the person asking the question a chance to understand the source. As far as journalism goes, I would say that the way this article quotes the responses is incorrect.
So you think Obama was plotting a coup and that the information was accurate because a source was cited? A source based upon the popularity of the question and not on the proof or validity of the accusation?
 

TonyC28

macrumors 68000
Aug 15, 2009
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So you think Obama was plotting a coup and that the information was accurate because a source was cited? A source based upon the popularity of the question and not on the proof or validity of the accusation?
No, I do not think Obama was or is plotting any kind of coup. After carefully reading my short post again you might find that I did not say that. What I did suggest is that the way MacRumors quotes it leads the reader to think it was a little more egregious than it actually was. It's called context.
[doublepost=1488807515][/doublepost]
The algorithms Google uses to verify online sources of information appear to be at fault, but the issue is arguably worse on smart devices because the answers they provide are plucked from the web without context, so users often remain unaware of their source.​
To the writer of the article: do you maybe wanna grab a cup of coffee and take another crack at this? BOTH of the videos linked in the article show the Google assistant providing a source for the answer.
You really need to change the way you quoted the responses or warn readers to watch the videos before reading your article.
 
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macduke

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Jun 27, 2007
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This is a pretty serious problem for a box that spits out answers. People are used to something like this being accurate for giving movie show times, weather, sports info—things that are based in data and facts. When you start asking more complex questions like this and it spits and answer at you, many people are too simple minded to question it. If your smart speaker doesn't have an answer, these companies run the risk of looking unfinished and inadequate. But when you pump out unverified news, you run the risk of manipulating populations. The scary part is that Google can control the narrative however they want either way. Maybe this isn't all that different from how things have been for years, but just distilling the internet down to a single, final answer seems a bit wreckless to me.
 
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Urban Joe

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There's no problem with fake news to the well informed.
The real problem is when people are too ignorant to know the difference.
All you have to do is a little open minded research and you'll find out
who is trafficking in deception.

I think it's great that people believe media is unreliable so they will do a little more reading and thinking.

The only people with a "problem" are purveyors of fake news who now are losing credibility and power over the opinions of low information people.

Last point. If you are too ignorant or polarized to detect fake news then you deserve the fruit of your ill-formed opinions.
 

EdT

macrumors 68000
Mar 11, 2007
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Modern liberalism is founded on the popularity of unfounded opinions.
No. Modern politics are. Every political faction has adopted "the end justifies the means" philosophy, whether you are liberal, conservative, libertarian or some mix of the above. People will happily quote and cite a black vs white opinion article that agrees with their political identity and ignoring even the possibility of a shade of gray.
[doublepost=1488812746][/doublepost]
There's no problem with fake news to the well informed.
The real problem is when people are too ignorant to know the difference.
All you have to do is a little open minded research and you'll find out
who is trafficking in deception.

I think it's great that people believe media is unreliable so they will do a little more reading and thinking.

The only people with a "problem" are purveyors of fake news who now are losing credibility and power over the opinions of low information people.

Last point. If you are too ignorant or polarized to detect fake news then you deserve the fruit of your ill-formed opinions.
Do you care when you are affected because a large number of ignorant people decide who gets elected or if a law is enacted, repealed or retained? What sites do you consider "fake news"? If you post them here, right now, you would derail this conversation into an argument about what sites are or are not a fake news site.

How many times have you been asked a question, in general, and told the person asking the question to "Google it"? Even if you personally never have you have to admit it's a very common response. This is verbal Googling. If someone knows little or nothing about the subject how deep do you think they will go researching it? They wanted an answer not a research project.
 

Labeno

macrumors 6502
Jul 21, 2008
313
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I think most people are programmed to believe everything they hear on the news. If people would just alternate between all news stations they would realize this is not the case.
It certainly taught me that almost everything said by any side of the media is either a lie or a huge exaggeration that is then turned into a lie once someone started spreading their version of what they thought they heard.
I think the media creates more hate in the world than any other group.
 
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milo

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Sep 23, 2003
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Doesn't surprise me at all considering the stories Google suggests on my Android phone contain ones from extremist propaganda sites WAY too often. And tend to come back after a while even after I've specifically told it not to show me anything from that site. If they are going to suggest content they should screen out fake stories as well as try and source from the most impartial ones they can, and not the fringe stuff.
 
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Markoth

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Oct 1, 2015
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No. Modern politics are. Every political faction has adopted "the end justifies the means" philosophy, whether you are liberal, conservative, libertarian or some mix of the above. People will happily quote and cite a black vs white opinion article that agrees with their political identity and ignoring even the possibility of a shade of gray.
Fair enough. I'll modify my post.
 
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ignatius345

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Aug 20, 2015
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Looks like it gets the republican part correct, at least
This serves nobody. I'm 100% certain my grandparents aren't nazis. I may disagree with them about a lot of things, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't make them nazis.
 

jlc1978

macrumors 68030
Aug 14, 2009
2,602
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Tired of hearing the terms "Fake News" and "Alternative Facts"...

What happened to the simple words "Lie", "Misinformation" and "Unfounded".
Those have been officially replaced in New Speak. Get with the program, citizen.
[doublepost=1488818320][/doublepost]
There's no problem with fake news to the well informed.
The real problem is when people are too ignorant to know the difference.
All you have to do is a little open minded research and you'll find out
who is trafficking in deception.
The problem is that people, all across the political spectrum listen to news that reinforces their viewpoint and have no inclination to seek alternative viewpoints.

I think it's great that people believe media is unreliable so they will do a little more reading and thinking.
Oddly enough, exposure to opposing viewpoints causes people to be more firm in theirs, rather than open up to the possibility they are wrong. We like to think presenting facts will cause someone to change their mind but often will cause them to be more firmly rooted in, and defend, their POV.

Internet discussions are a prime example of this. Someone will say X, another will point out fallacies with facts to back their argument and the OP will often simply restate their position and accuse the other of either making up facts or launch an ad hominem attack. Neither side is swayed and just become more forceful in defense of their position, no matter what the facts show.

The only people with a "problem" are purveyors of fake news who now are losing credibility and power over the opinions of low information people.
News organizations use this behavior by presenting news in a way that reinforces their viewer's opinions rather than confront them with confounding information. If anything, news organizations all across the spectrum will benefit since it makes their customers more tightly tied to their version of the news.
 
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Nuvi

macrumors 65816
Feb 7, 2008
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Tired of hearing the terms "Fake News" and "Alternative Facts"...

What happened to the simple words "Lie", "Misinformation" and "Unfounded".
I'm getting fed up with paradox "alternative facts", which in FACT is a lie or in many cases Disinformation, which is intentionally false or misleading information that is spread in a calculated way to deceive target audiences.
 
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nick42983

macrumors 6502
May 18, 2009
435
319
California
Obama is working to undermine the Trump administration. It's fair to characterize it as a "silent coup". His Karl Rove, Valerie Jarrett, just moved in with Obama with his family. An adult woman, more than capable of providing for herself, moving in with a former president's family? Beyond shady. Recent reports suggest Obama illegally tapped Trump's phones. This is far worse than Watergate and Obama may face criminal prosecution. Obama is most certainly running a "Deep State" anti-Trump government that aims to destroy the democratically elected president. I think Google got it right in this case. And, Obama's mentor in his formative years, Frank Marshall Davis, was not only a Communist, but a Stalinist! Obama surrounded himself with anti-American communists throughout his entire life. He may not be a card-carrying member of the Communist Party, but he's as red as the day is long.
 
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