According to Google, only trustworthy and selected media content is displayed in its own news area, fact checkers secure the information. The research by Netzpolitik.org paints a different picture: among around 5,200 search results from Google News, there were numerous more than questionable sources. These included right-wing populist blogs, websites of parties and authorities, and PR reports from companies. At least six cases showed state propaganda, four of which came from China.
The authors looked at more than 5,000 results from different search queries on Google News. In addition to many well-known media companies, “Radio China International” and “Xinhuanet Deutsch” as well as the Iranian “mehr News Agency” and the Hungarian “Híradó” appeared. “The state media of authoritarian governments can hardly be described as trustworthy,” writes Netzpolitik.org. And the content is correspondingly dark. An article by “Chinese Radio” described the human rights violations against the Muslim Uyghur minority as lies. The article denies forced labor and genocide in Xinjiang. The United Nations recently denounced those human rights violations in a report.
A report from Iran criticizes the conviction of a Holocaust denier in Germany. An article comes from Hungary that makes the US investor George Soros partly responsible for the fact that a French city wants to allow full-body swimsuits, Netzpolitik further describes the research results. Soros is a popular character for and in conspiracy narratives.
Youtube labels the same sources
While Google News shows these sources without comment, they are flagged on YouTube. For example, under the Xinhua videos, it says that this is “financed in whole or in part by the Chinese government”. Confronted with the results, a spokesman told the authors that “harmful and hateful content” is prohibited under Google’s policy. More than 10,000 testers should therefore check the results for expertise, authority and trustworthiness. The question of whether the specific cases violated the guidelines remained unanswered. Google emphasized that the algorithm would even highlight news from reliable sources.
At the beginning of September, Netzpolitik.org used software to query 50 search terms via the news tab on Google. Half of the search terms concerned major news topics such as “Ukraine”, “heat wave” and “9 euro ticket”, the other half right-wing populist terms such as “foreign infiltration” and “gender madness”. The first ten results were evaluated, which resulted in 5202 reports from 889 sources. The authors published the table with the search terms and results.
Press offices as news sources
In addition to the state media, the results also include blogs that have already been proven to have spread false information. In addition to the journalistic content, there is also content that comes directly from the press offices. The Federal Government and the Ministry of Finance are Google as a news source, the city of Mannheim and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia are also represented. The Union as well as the Greens and right-wing parties were displayed in the searches.
How Google News actually selects sources and what criteria they have to meet remains fairly ambiguous, even when asked by Netzpolitik.org. Website operators can take credit for it themselves, although Google adds content through crawling. When a media will be excluded – unclear. The order, the algorithm, and the human reviewers? Unknown.
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