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Manipulating Google’s Algorithm for News is Surprisingly Easy, Here’s Why That Should Concern You

One thing that a lot of people fail to realize about this modern day and age is that a lot of the content that you see is often dictated by the algorithm that sifts through various pieces of content on the platform that you are using. Hence, if you tend to stumble upon things that you find interesting quite frequently, that’s probably because the algorithm has a good read on you and is able to successfully predict what you might enjoy.

These algorithms have some benefits because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up allowing people to connect with content that matters to them without having to look for it all that hard. However, it can also create echo chambers and ideological bubbles that would continuously reinforce the beliefs and notions that an individual has already inculcated which can often create a lot of myopia among people that don’t know enough to find third party resources for information.

With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that sometimes the algorithm can also be manipulated in which case you could be fed information that might not even be true in the first place. A journalist by the name of Tristan Greene recently experimented with the algorithm that Google uses for news, and over a period of eight months he was able to make it so that his own stories started getting recommended regardless of whether or not they were relevant to the topic in question.

There are over 300 million people that use Google News, and these people would potentially assume that the news they are getting is entirely objective. The fact that the algorithm can be manipulated so easily can create a lot of trust issues since users might soon stop feeling like they can rely on it if they realize what is occurring at all. Some users that don’t catch on might continue to consume news regardless of whether or not it is accurate simply due to the reason that the algorithm recommended it.

Algorithms are designed to seek rewards in the form of user interaction. That’s why anything you interact with results in related things being shown to you. However, this is something that can be exploited and it can change the algorithm’s priorities as long as it gets the usage that it is looking for. Google is a trillion dollar company, and the fact that its algorithm is so easy to hijack does not bode well for the future of algorithm based recommendation engines for content and news alike.


H/T: TNW.

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