Vitaly Popov has lost. Popov, an alleged Russian spammer who owns ɢoogle.com—note the Latin ‘G’ at the start of the URL—had been bombarding Google Analytics pages with fake referrals. But on Thursday an arbitration forum ordered that the domain be transferred to Google.
“Once formed,” the researchers observed dryly, “impressions are remarkably perseverant.” Even after the evidence “for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs.” Humans’ biggest advantage over other species is our ability to coöperate. Habits of mind that seem weird or goofy or just plain dumb from an “intellectualist” point of view prove shrewd when seen from a social “interactionist” perspective. If reason is designed to generate sound judgments, then it’s hard to conceive of a more serious design flaw than confirmation bias. Almost invariably, the positions we’re blind about are our own.
On the surface this looked like a classic case of fake news – a scandalous and highly shareable story, incorporating official-looking materials and sourcing, yet with no other mainstream outlet even mentioning the story. In the counter-intelligence world, this is what is known as a “wilderness of mirrors” – creating a chaotic information environment that so perfectly blends truth, half-truth and fiction that even the best can no longer tell what’s real and what’s not.
Researchers at Google are developing a new system to rank search results based on the number of facts a website contains, rather than the number of incoming links. Under the new system described by Google researchers, those results will be based on a truth score given to each website called “Knowledge-Based Trust,” which ranks a website lower in search results based on the number of incorrect facts counted on the site.
Both source and repeater outlets target a wide range of audiences: US military veterans, Wall St. insiders and finance specialists, natural-food and health enthusiasts, goldbugs, African-Americans, white Americans, peace activists, religious people, 9/11-“truthers”, and politically-active Americans across and outside the political spectrum.
We finally got a grudging mea culpa from Mark Zuckerberg: an admission that fake news is a significant problem that his social network must help solve. But as a journalist who has been covering the inner workings of the technology industry for more than a decade, I find the calls for Facebook to accept broad responsibility for fact-checking the news, including by hiring editors and reporters, deeply unsettling.