Google News bars publications masking country of origin

18 Dec 2017


Google has moved to block from its news search publications that mask their country of origin or intentionally mislead readers in a further step to curb the spread of fake news that has plagued internet companies of late.

The search giant has updated its guidelines to particularly bar websites in Google News, which misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information or engage in coordinated activity to mislead users.

In an update to its guidelines released Friday, the search giant added language stipulating that publications not ''engage in coordinated activity to mislead users''.

Additionally the new rules read, ''This includes, but isn't limited to, sites that misrepresent or conceal their country of origin or are directed at users in another country under false premises.''

The company said in a blog, ''Google News may also remove sites participating in other misleading practices not listed in these guidelines. Clearly attributed syndicated content is also acceptable as long as it isn't a majority of the content on the site.''

Google will also allow publishers to file a spam report if they believe another publisher has violated its company's new inclusion guidelines.

 ''We update our policies on a regular basis to reflect a constantly changing web and how people look for information online,'' a Google spokeswoman wrote in a statement. ''As a result, we want to ensure that people can understand and see where their news online is coming from and that sites are being transparent about their origins.''

Alphabet Inc's Google, Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc have faced a cascade of criticism, regulatory scrutiny and public concern over the rise in misleading news. Lawyers for the three companies testified before Congress in October and November over Russian influence in the 2016 US election.

A popular tactic for misinformation campaigns is to pose as a credible US news outlet. Russian Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed organization, used that technique to reach an audience of nearly 500,000 people, spread primarily through Twitter accounts.

Google faced less heat over the spread of fake news than its social-media peers. But the search giant has admitted that Russian agents used its platforms, including YouTube and Google News, to spread propaganda.

Congress has called on Google to take punitive action against Russia-backed news outlets, like Russia Today, which is very popular on YouTube.

The latest update, however, is not geared to publications that openly state their country of origin.

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