More fake news on the Web — this time, via Google

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook isn't the only source of fake news on the Web.

Alphabet's Google was dragged into the muck Monday, when its search engine prominently displayed an obscure right-wing blog, 70news.wordpress.com, that falsely claimed President-elect Donald Trump won the popular vote in last week's election.  (Hillary Clinton leads Trump by nearly 700,000 votes, but Trump won in the Electoral College.)

"The goal of Search is to provide the most relevant and useful results for our users. In this case we clearly didn’t get it right, but we are continually working to improve our algorithms," Google spokeswoman Maggie Shiels said in a email statement.

The results popped up under a Google search banner called  "In the News" when a user searched for "who won the popular vote." As of Monday evening, the blog's post was still there, though it followed stories that referenced the erroneous results. In the News is different from Google News (news.google.com.)

The dust-up, on the heels of criticism that Facebook was a breeding ground for misinformation during the run-up to the presidential election, is more fodder for a national debate on the responsibility of social media and other types of technology that broadly disseminate information to billions of people worldwide.

Most news carried on Google's search engine comes from established media sources such as the New York Times and CNN, according to data analysis from journalists at the University of Maryland.

The erroneous blog post is sure to give technology another black eye in what has been mounting criticism about its propensity to amplify misleading information across broad digital platforms.

Facebook has been assailed for prominently featuring fake news on its site, prompting CEO Mark Zuckerberg to deny it unwittingly helped Trump become president-elect. He said 99% of news on the social network is "authentic," and has vowed to weed out fake news.

A group of Facebook employees have formed an unofficial task force to refute Zuckerberg's claim that the company bears no responsibility for the spread of fake news, according to a BuzzFeed News report.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment.

USA TODAY


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