Google and Anti Disinformation

March 19, 2019

Lest anyone wonder what, exactly, Google is doing to fight disinformation on its platforms, the company has compiled that information in a white paper presented at the recent Munich Security Conference. Techspot tells us, “Google Presents Its Anti-Fake News System in Detail.” Reporter Greg Synek gives us the highlights; we learn:

“An important fact about Google’s algorithms are that they ‘do not make subjective determinations about the truthfulness of webpages.’ Instead, only measurable and verifiable data is used to give a trust score of sorts. The number of other websites linking to or referencing a page and authority rank are contributing factors. Once a web page meets enough of Google’s criteria to be considered legitimate and of good quality, it is given a boost in results. Google News imposes even stricter guidelines for what will be prominently featured because timeliness is a major factor in ranking. All of the news produced on any given day that Google crawls through can be used to determine when and which topics are considered important.

We also noted this statement:

“Following the automated filters in place, extra context is being given to ‘Your Money or Your Life’ pages. Google looks for medical, legal, financial, and public information pages that may be used to make critical decisions. These YMYL category pages receive special ranking consideration based on authority and user trust. For example, anti-vaccine campaigns may be moved down rankings considerably due to their provably false information being spread. Humans are involved in rating some of these pages, but do not determine the absolute rank of any site or individual web page.”

As for Google-owned YouTube, it can be a bit more complex to manage as we learned when the controversial New Zealand video surfaced and surfaced and surfaced.

Readers can download the full pdf here.

Cynthia Murrell, March 19, 2019

Facebook and Digital Money

March 4, 2019

Digital currency like Bitcoin is often associated with cyber crime. Rightly or wrongly, Bitcoin evokes images of Dark Web markets selling drugs, an association reinforced by the Silk Road bust.

Facebook, on the other hand, evokes smiles from grandmothers, but a UK investigative body characterized Facebook is more negative terms. My recollection is that the British government sees Facebook as an example of Wild West capitalism which intentionally or unintentionally enables outfits like the now defunct Cambridge Analytica.

I thought about these associations when I worked my way through “Regarding Facebook’s Cryptocurerncy.” The write up asserted:

just because Facebook launches a stablecoin cryptocurrency for peer-to-peer payments doesn’t mean people will actually use it.

Facebook’s possible angle is getting money. The write up points out:

Remittances are the obvious target market here. And it would be huge, and important, and wonderful, if Facebook were to make remittances 10x cheaper and faster … but that would require much more than fast international stablecoin transfers, because, again, those stablecoins are not legal tender at their destination, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed but businesses tend to have this whole thing about receiving legal tender.

The fix is for Facebook to find ways to get organizations to accept Facecoins.

The other angle is:

for Facebook to establish relationships with cryptocurrency exchanges worldwide, or — even more dramatically — become or sponsor exchanges themselves.

The write up is interesting, but it left me with several questions zipping through my admittedly limited brain:

  1. How could bad actors make use of Facecoin?
  2. Will Facebook provide these digital currency data to government authorities?
  3. What third party services will Facebook enable through an existing or new API?
  4. What audit mechanisms are in place?
  5. What if Facebook’s presumed digital currency is used for illegal activities?

I would suggest that when digital currency becomes part of an organization which the British government views in a less than positive manner, regulatory authorities may be sitting on the sidelines.

Stephen E Arnold, March 4, 2019

Google Adds to Its Fancy Dancing Repertoire

February 21, 2019

I assume that someone at Google learned about the UK report hashtagging Facebook as a “digital gangster.”

Google is almost certainly aware that regulatory scrutiny of the firm’s practices is likely to increase in 2019. One of Google’s easier dance moves is reported in “Google Exec Reorganizes Policy Shop as Global Threats Loom.” Nothing solves problems like influencers, insiders and money. The write up asserted:

“Public Policy,” will become “Government Affairs and Public Policy.”

Ah, wordsmithing.

Tougher to explain is the report is another wave of advertisers (many of which have no other way to promote their products and services) are finding themselves taking a mor-tical stand. (That’s a combo of moral and ethical, a neologism for online marketing.)

I noted “Nestle, Disney Pull YouTube Ads, Joining Furor Over Child Videos.” The sometimes source free Bloomberg reports:

Walt Disney Co. is said to have pulled its advertising spending from YouTube, joining other companies including Nestle SA, after a blogger detailed how comments on Google’s video site were being used to facilitate a “soft-core pedophilia ring.” Some of the videos involved ran next to ads placed by Disney and Nestle.

Bloomberg, true to real news norms, adds this statement:

YouTube on Tuesday released an updated policy about how it will handle content that “crosses the line” of appropriateness.

I don’t want to dwell on appropriateness, lobbying, or the cycle of surprise, apologies, and remediation which seems more like a visit to the previously owned and lightly used shop.

Like Facebook, Google has some interesting methods of generating revenue as it continues to avoid the “digital gangster” moniker. Inappropriate kiddie content is, however, problematic for any organization. How? Why? How much? Who? — Questions which may warrant answers some day. Maybe.

It may be time for the founders to distance themselves even more from the online ad giant. The quite valuable 25 year old teapot may be reaching it limit for safe operation.

Stephen E Arnold, February 21, 2019

Ombudsman or Enforcement Official?

December 11, 2018

As Google’s CEO prepares to read his testimony today (December 11, 2018), I noted this passage from the prepared statement:

Users also look to us to provide accurate, trusted information. We work hard to ensure the integrity of our products, and we’ve put a number of checks and balances in place to ensure they continue to live up to our standards. I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way. To do otherwise would go against  our core principles and our business interests. (See this link for the statement.)

I thought about the recent security lapse at Google Plus. Yes, that was the service which was the trigger for a compensation goodie.

But what’s important today is not the reading of Silicon Valley spin.

I suggest that the article “Facebook, Google scramble to contain global fallout from ACCC plan” may have more oomph in the long run. The Australian government appears to be inching toward clamping down on the Google and Facebook. I noted this statement:

Declaring the digital giants have “substantial” market power, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) wants to create an ombudsman to investigate complaints from consumers, media companies and marketers about Google and Facebook over issues such as defamatory comments and fake ads.

As a member of Five Eyes, Australia may be pointing the direction in which Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US will move.

In this context, the Google statement does little to change the reality of what the company does and how it operates. For example, there is employee push back. Another example, there is the behavior of senior executives. One more: There are the claims of Foundem and other vendors who allege that Google willfully took steps to swizzle the search results.

The question becomes, “Is Australia appointing an ombudsman to deal with Google and Facebook or an enforcement officer?”

Enforcement? Laws, I assume, will follow.

Stephen E Arnold, December 11, 2018

Google Explains: Yes, We Ignore Do Not Track

December 8, 2018

I love explanations which raise more questions than they answer. Facebook is good at this approach to governance, editorial policy, and decision making fantasy prose. But Google is Googley.

I read “Turn Do Not Track On or Off.” Here’s the passage I noted:

Most websites and web services, including Google’s, don’t change their behavior when they receive a Do Not Track request. Chrome doesn’t provide details of which websites and web services respect Do Not Track requests and how websites interpret them.

With Microsoft throwing in the towel on Edge, I think that most people using a browser are going to be tracked. In short, Chromium based browsers are not playing a gatekeeper role for their users.

I may be wrong, but I did not find the article helpful.

I do think that Google is thinking about Google. I assume that is why Marine General Joseph Dunbar wanted to know why Google will work with China but not with the US military.

Yes, we do not work with some requests. Interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2018

Technology Giants and Incentive: No Payoff in Bias

September 26, 2018

I read “Google, Facebook, Twitter Have No Incentive to Inject Bias, Tech Industry Group Says.” Interesting write up because the Information Technology and innovative Foundation or ITIF seems like an objective outfit. I noted this statement in the write up:

The Justice Department should back off its unseemly political attacks on social media platforms. Policymakers should continue to employ a light touch regulatory approach so consumers can benefit from the platforms’ continued growth and innovation.

Sounds reasonable. The timing is, of course, coincidental. Why would the information appear before hearings about privacy and security take place.

Here in Harrod’s Creek we trust social media companies and we think that the technology supported non profit is even more trustworthy. Get with the program, one old geezer here in rural Kentucky said. But that person believes in self regulation even thought the fellow struggles to control his bourbon intake.

Unseemly for sure.

Stephen E Arnold, September 26, 2018

Google and Search: More Churn Turmoil

April 4, 2018

I read “John Giannandrea, Head of Google’s Cornerstone Web-Search Unit, Steps Down.” I found the phrase “steps down” amusing. I think the wizard went to the Apple orchard. Since Mr. Giannandrea ran search, Google search has become less useful to me. Now I have to use multiple search systems to locate what I think are slam dunk queries. Nope. I get some pretty off the wall Google search results.

Two points jumped out of this story for me.

First, Google is forced to go back to one of the early Googlers from the AltaVista.com team. (I did some work for an outfit called PersimmonIT, which was a provider to AltaVista.com.) What’s interesting is that Jeff Dean is one of the really old Google guard. I know he’s bright and capable but that begs this question: “Aren’t their younger, smarter, and as or more capable professionals to get the over hyped Google artificial intelligence operation underway.” I can suggest at least one candidate from the DeepMind team. But, hey, who really cares?

Second, search must be pretty broken. The job has fallen to another old timer at the GOOG. Same question: “Aren’t there younger, more with it technical wizards who can handle the massively complex, software wrapped, advertising centric systems? (Yep, systems because there is “regular” search and “mobile” search. Two search systems are part of the index puzzle Google has built over the years.) Plus, do you remember Google’s “universal” search which, as aBearStearns’ legend has it, was cooked up over a weekend to deal with a PR problem triggered by an analyst’s report to which yours truly contributed. You know “universal.” One query gets you blog content,  new Web sites, Google Books, Google Scholar, yada yada. That doesn’t exist and probably will never come to pass for some pretty good reasons. But saying something is just as good as delivering I assume.)

Net net: Google is now a mature company. The founders have distanced themselves from the legal troubles in which the company is mired. The company is caught in the Silicon Valley backlash. The Oracle Jave thing is a Freddie Kruger thing for the GOOG. Management change is a companion to the craziness which seems to characterize some units of the company.

I wonder if a query launched from a desktop computer will return on point results in the near future. I sure hope so.

Stephen E Arnold, April 4, 2018

Facebook Wants to Do Better

April 4, 2018

The company seems to be unable to cook up ways to do better. If “Do You Think Facebook Is Good for the World?” is accurate, Facebook wants its “users” to provide the company with ideas. Mr. Zuckerberg wants to “fix Facebook.” What did Alexis de Tocqueville say about voting in a “democracy”? Was it the triumph of the average? Perhaps Facebook will share the results of its survey.

Stephen E Arnold, April 4, 2018

Silicon Valley Management Method: Has Broflow Replaced Workflow?

March 23, 2018

In early March, we noted a story about Silicon Valley and evil. “How Silicon Valley Went from ‘Don’t Be Evil’ to Doing Evil” reported about the “bro” culture and a casual approach to customer privacy. There was a nod to fake news too. We noted this statement:

“[A] handful of companies or concentrated in one or two regions. The great progress in the 1980s and 1990s took place in a highly competitive, and dispersed, environment not one dominated by firms that control 80 or 90 percent of key markets. Not surprisingly, the rise of the oligarchs coincides with a general decline in business startups, including in tech.”

Today we noted “Here is How Google Handles Right to Be Forgotten Requests.” We found this passage suggestive:

Witness statements submitted by Google “legal specialist” Stephanie Caro (who admitted: “I am not by training a lawyer”) for both trials explained: “The process of dealing with each delisting request is not automated – it involves individual consideration of each request and involves human judgment. Without such an individual assessment, the procedure put in place by Google would be open to substantial abuse, with the prospect of individuals, or indeed businesses, seeking to suppress search results for illegitimate reasons.”

No smart software needed it seems. And the vaunted technical company’s workflow with regard to removal requests? Possibly “casual” or “disorganized.”

When considered against the backdrop of Facebook-Cambridge Analytics, process seems less important than other tasks.

Perhaps some management expert will assign the term “bro-flow” to the organizational procedures implemented by some high profile technology firms?

Stephen E Arnold, March 23, 2018

 

Patrick Roland, March 9, 2018

Alphabet Google: The Personnel Slide Down Continues

March 9, 2018

Google is one of the top technology companies in the world and their services are employed on nearly every computer, phone, and tablet. Google is at the most innovative when it comes to developing new technology, but a former Google insider said the opposite. Steve Yegge writing for Medium explains his Google experience in his article, “Why I Left Google To Join Grab.”

Yegge loved Google and still considered it to be one of the best places in the world to work, but he left for some good reasons:

“The main reason I left Google is that they can no longer innovate. They’ve pretty much lost that ability. I believe there are several contributing factors, of which I’ll list four here. First, they’re conservative…Second, they are mired in politics, which is sort of inevitable with a large enough organization; the only real alternative is a dictatorship, which has its own downsides. Third, Google is arrogant…But fourth, last, and probably worst of all, Google has become 100% competitor-focused rather than customer focused.”

Google has reached the apex of its innovative spirit and has gone the way over all corporations and, arguably, politicians. Google has grown so big and powerful, hires the top players in the field, and controls so many products/services that it does not want to lose face, its employees have ego problems, and they serve the almighty dollar. It is a repetitious pattern that has been playing out for ages. One of the greatest examples was the British Empire. The British Empire became so big and powerful that the resources were spread too thin, the ruling parties were arrogant, the subjects suffered, and those in power never wanted it to change. It sounds like Google, does it not?

Yegge then talked about the new endeavor called Grab and stresses the importance of keeping your ear to the ground in order to make and grow a business. Google has gotten too big, but it still has a lot of powerful and it will be awhile before it falls. Another company will pick up the slack. Someone always does.

Whitney Grace, March 9, 2018

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