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Google is taking further steps to fight fake news. The search engine is changing the way that its core algorithm work in order to help weed out fake news and hate speech, according to a blog post on April 25th.

The technology giant will be taking steps to ensure that low-quality content is demoted down the search rankings and that high quality content gets pushed the top. The changes are designed to prevent another Holocast denial scandal, where google results placed a neo-nazi white supremacist page at the top of results.  Ben Gnomes, VP of Engineering, stated in the post “structural changes” to the way search worked were needed.

Google is taking a number of steps in order to combat fake news. One of these changes is to the way pages are ranked by adjusting their signals to demote low quality content and promote authoritative sources. Signals are the signs that Google’s algorithm looks for in order to discern good content from bad.Google is also giving users more feedback options and greater power to report content that they feel is inappropriate. This feedback will then be used to improve Google’s algorithm.

While Google has also provided its search raters with new quality guidelines they have shied away from involving any humans directly in the indexing process. Search raters can’t change results, they can simply rate the quality of the results and that feedback is then used to improve the search algorithm.

Google has repeatedly downplayed the prevalence of fake-news. Google regularly asserts that only 0.25% of its results return “offensive or clearly misleading content”. That said, Google’s attempts to downplay fake news also hide a deeper problem.

While Facebook’s problems with fake news going viral present a big problem Googles answer box represents what the algorithm believes to be the best answer in one of the world’s largest databases. A problem highlighted recently when Google claimed Obama was planning a coup.  The fact that Google’s algorithm keeps throwing up misleading or fake content is deeply concerning. This likely explains why Google is taking fake news so seriously, despite it only accounting for 0.25% of results.

Google relies upon their search algorithm in order to remain impartial. If humans were used to rank content it would only be a mammoth task but Google would be open to accusations of bias. This means that any problem that exposes flaws in the algorithm are a serious concern for the search engine giant.

Only time will tell whether these changes are effective but the fact Google is taking the problem seriously is good news for everyone.

You'll find me wandering around the Science sections mostly, excitedly waving my arms around while jumping up and down about the latest science and tech news. I am also occasionally found in the gaming section, trying to convince everyone else that linux is the future of the computer gaming.

Software

The United States has prohibited the sale of Kaspersky software due to concerns about security risks originating from Russia

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The United States government declared on Thursday its prohibition of the sale of Kaspersky antivirus within the nation and is urging American users of the software to transition to an alternative provider.

The Bureau of Industry and Security, a division of the Commerce Department, has implemented a unique ban on Kaspersky, claiming that the company, being headquartered in Russia, poses a threat to both U.S. national security and the privacy of its users.

Russia has demonstrated both the ability and the intention to utilize Russian companies, such as Kaspersky, to gather and weaponize the personal data of Americans. “Hence, we are obliged to undertake the course of action that we are currently implementing,” stated U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo during a conference call with journalists.

Reuters was the first to report on the ban before it was officially announced. A representative from Kaspersky did not promptly reply to the inquiry for a comment.

Starting on July 20, Kaspersky will face a ban on selling its software to American consumers and businesses. However, the company will still be allowed to offer software and security updates to its current customers until September 29. Subsequently, Raimondo stated that Kaspersky would be prohibited from delivering software updates to customers in the United States.

“This implies that the quality of your software and services will decline.” Raimondo strongly advises finding an alternative to Kaspersky without delay.

Raimondo stated that U.S. consumers who are currently utilizing Kaspersky’s antivirus software are not in breach of any legal regulations.

Raimondo stated that individuals and businesses in the United States who currently use or have previously used Kaspersky products and services are not breaking the law, have not committed any wrongdoing, and will not face any legal consequences. “I strongly urge you to cease using that software and transition to an alternative as soon as possible to safeguard yourself, your data, and your family.”

Raimondo announced that the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department will collaborate to notify American consumers. Additionally, the U.S. government will establish a website to provide affected individuals with the necessary information to comprehend the rationale behind our actions and guide them in taking appropriate measures.

According to a high-ranking official from the U.S. Commerce Department, the federal cybersecurity agency CISA will engage in communication efforts with critical infrastructure organizations that rely on Kaspersky software in order to assist them in identifying alternative options. The official further stated that they have no intention of specifying any particular action by Kaspersky that prompted today’s decision. (The Commerce Department asked reporters not to reveal the official’s identity.)

The ban, which was announced on Thursday, represents the most recent intensification in a protracted sequence of measures taken by the U.S. government against Kaspersky, a company based in Moscow.

In September 2017, the Trump administration implemented a prohibition on the utilization of Kaspersky software by U.S. federal agencies due to concerns that the company may be coerced into assisting Russian intelligence agencies. In a previous report, it was disclosed that Russian state-sponsored hackers had illicitly acquired classified U.S. documents that were stored on the personal computer of an intelligence contractor. This breach occurred due to the use of Kaspersky’s antivirus software, making it the first documented case of espionage resulting from the use of this particular company’s software.

The Wall Street Journal reported in April 2023 that the decision to prohibit Kaspersky has been under development since last year.

According to the company itself, Kaspersky has more than 240,000 corporate clients globally and over 400 million individual customers. The senior official refrained from disclosing the exact number of U.S. customers that Kaspersky has. However, the official mentioned that there are a substantial number of customers, including critical infrastructure organizations as well as state and local government entities.

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Android

Google Chrome now has a ‘picture-in-picture’ feature

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Google is getting ready to make a big change to how its Chrome browser works. This is because new browsers from startups like Arc are making the market more competitive. The company said on Wednesday that it will be adding a new feature called “Minimized Custom Tabs” that will let users tap to switch between a native app and their web content. When you do this, the Custom Tab turns into a small window that floats above the content of the native app.

The new feature is all about using Custom Tabs, which is a feature in Android browsers that lets app developers make their own browser experience right in their app. Users don’t have to open their browser or a WebView, which doesn’t support all of the web platform’s features. Custom tabs let users stay in their app while browsing. Custom tabs can help developers keep users in their apps longer and keep them from leaving and never coming back.

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If you make the Custom Tab into a picture-in-picture window, switching to the web view might feel more natural, like you’re still in the native app. People who send their customers to a website to sign up for accounts or subscriptions might also find this change useful, since it makes it easier for users to switch between the website and the native app.

After being shrunk down to the picture-in-picture window, the Custom Tab can be pushed to the side of the screen. Users can tap on a down arrow to bring the page back to the picture-in-picture window when it is full screen.

The new web experience comes at a time when Google is making it easier for Android users to connect to the web. People can find their way to the web with AI-powered features like Circle to Search and other integrations that let them do things like circle or highlight items.

The change is coming to the newest version of Chrome (M124), and developers who already use Chrome’s Custom Tabs will see it automatically. Google says that the change only affects Chrome browsers, but it hopes that other browser makers will add changes like these.

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Apps

Threads finally starts its own program to check facts

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Meta’s latest social network, Threads, is launching its own fact-checking initiative after leveraging Instagram and Facebook’s networks for a brief period.

Adam Mosseri, the CEO of Instagram, stated that the company has recently implemented a feature that allows fact-checkers to assess and label false content on threads. Nevertheless, Mosseri refrained from providing specific information regarding the exact timing of the program’s implementation and whether it was restricted to certain geographical regions.

The fact-checking partners for Threads—which organizations are affiliated with Meta—are not clearly specified. We have requested additional information from the company and will revise the story accordingly upon receiving a response.

The upcoming U.S. elections appear to be the main driving force behind the decision. India is currently in the midst of its general elections. However, it is improbable that a social network would implement a fact-checking program specifically during an election cycle rather than initiating the project prior to the elections.

In December, Meta announced its intention to implement the fact-checking program on Threads.

“At present, we align the fact-check ratings from Facebook or Instagram with Threads. However, our objective is to empower fact-checking partners to evaluate and assign ratings to misinformation on the application,” Mosseri stated in a post during that period.

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