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Google’s “Top Stories” Mistake Mirrors PageRank

Google has become so integral in our lives that it’s now the directory for the world. However, even their search algorithm, PageRank, is not perfect. After the Las Vegas shooting, Google received a lot of criticism for prioritizing inaccurate webpages above reputable and authoritative sources in their “Top Stories” tab. Google’s feature uses a specific set of signals, such as the user’s search history and other personal information, to decide whether users are interested in viewing the new stories and links it discovered. However, instead of relying on the accuracy of the information in the webpage, Google used the “freshness” and popularity of the sources to rank the webpages. This led to Google spreading fake news articles, especially when many people will be online looking for information and are more susceptible to believing wild stories and articles.


In lecture, we discussed how PageRank’s algorithm classifies and ranks websites for users’ search results and the role of direct endorsements. The algorithm weights webpages based on the amount of links the website is connected to and the weight or importance of the websites that it is linked to. However, people on the Internet can create fake news by filling each of the groupings with long chains of texts that have nothing to do with the rest of the grouping. As a result, PageRank will provide irrelevant information and web pages over reputable and authoritative sources. This is very similar to the way the Google uses its algorithm and  “Top Stories” feature to display and rank information.


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