When the most trusted search engine spews out the most bizarre conspiracy theories about the former President of the US, criticism is well in order, won’t you agree? Google Home came under renewed fire after it was caught pants down promoting fascist news.
When the smart device was asked “Is Obama planning a coup” it replied; “Obama may, in fact, be planning a Communist coup d’état at the end of his term in 2016.” The insanity lived on when asked whether Republicans are fascists. It replied with a definitive Yes and equated Republicans to Nazis.
As well as being an issue of morals and ethics, this kind of fake news could, in advertently, have a devastating effect on hardware and is already a major concern for IT security experts.
How is misinformation a security concern?
It’s almost unbelievable that Google could be part of this growing problem. Citing Business Insider, the blame lies with the Snippets feature of Google. It is meant to offer the user with a rather definitive answer to any question typed out on the search bar. For instance, if you ask for the last king of England, you will get a definitive answer of George VI.
A form of the feature is used by Google’s virtual assistant that is integrated into smartphones and Google Home smart speaker which is meant to offer speedy definitive answers. While normal search pages will let you know the source of the answer, Google’s virtual assistant does not let you see other answers available.
It seems like the algorithm plucked out any definitive answer from the web without properly verifying the authenticity of the source. A Google spokesman tried to explain this colossal mistake by stating that content is drawn from third-party sites. He admitted to there being situations where misleading or rather inappropriate content is featured.
In essence, he said that whenever such issues arose the company is quick to remedy it, but this time it seems the world beat them to it. In true Google fashion, they apologized for any harm caused.
But regardless of the reasons, when a trusted source touts a fake news story of any kind it sets a precedent. The danger to IT infrastructure lies in fake news stories peddled by cyber criminals with malicious intent. The more normal these stories appear, the more likely it is that someone will click through on one of them – and that’s where the problem lies.
Hackers are replacing email scams and instant messages with fake news stories. Just one click can open the floodgates to phishing, malware and DoS attack and these onslaughts can quickly spread through an organization’s IT network.
Tip of the iceberg
This is not the first time Google has set the internet abuzz with criticism. A while back, it was faulted for its predictive search results. But the fake news is a new territory altogether that first showed its ugly head during the last presidential election of US.
This trend continued in December 2016 when the Guardian detailed how Google favored an answer that said “every woman has some degree of a prostitute in her. Every woman has some evil in her.”
Perhaps one of the most absurd examples would be citing Barrack Obama as the King of United States months after he left office not to mention the US has no King.
But absurd as these claims often are, thanks to social media, they can quickly gain traction and credibility, in essence, turning potential viruses – viral.
And the response?
Social media companies including Facebook have released statements detailing the actions they intend to pursue to ensure fake news does not end up trending. Apple followed suit and has admitted to finding ways to make certain its delivery services is well equipped to spot conspiracy theories being passed as legit news.
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, has dubbed fake news as one of the leading problems faced today. He further states that’s it’s paramount for technology to find a way to deal with this prickly issue.
Companies can act now too. It’s in the best interest of organizations to warn employees about these potential risks before a fatal click.