Secret de-ranking and outwitting spammers: Recollections from inside the Google News 'black box'

Business Insider | 2/12/2017 | Nathan McAlone
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For the small team maintaining one of the world’s most popular news sites, the job was straightforward: weed out liars and scammers.

But amid a sea of online information and misinformation, the Google News staffers had a sometimes tricky task.

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The editorial team carrying out the job was nothing like a traditional newsroom. Some members of the team had journalism bonafides, others came from the world of customer service, and still others were contractors based in India or other parts of the world.

“We were a weird, motley crew,” one former member of the Google News team told Business Insider.

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Decisions about which publications were worthy of being included on the Google News site were not always as obvious, or as transparent, as the public guidelines, several former members said.

As internet companies like Google and Facebook play an increasingly prevalent role in news distribution, the editorial standards and practices of the companies are increasingly under scrutiny, especially with fake news on the rise.

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Business Insider spoke to a handful of former members of the Google News team to get a better understanding of how today’s information gatekeepers decide which news the public sees.

Several described a team of full-time Google employees, working out of the company’s Mountain View, California headquarters a few years ago. However, Google has changed the organization in recent years, instead relying entirely on outside contractors to vet the publishers that appear on Google News. But the main editorial inclusion guidelines, which Google created in 2011, were part of the process described by multiple Google staffers Business Insider spoke to.

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The system appears to be effective. Google News has suffered fewer incidents of fake news than Facebook. Still, as tech companies like Google and Facebook emerge as primary channels for news consumption, the descriptions of Google’s practices highlight big changes shaping today's news...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Business Insider
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