Wired magazine has weighed in on the “Google labels Republicans Nazis” controversy by pointing out that the tech giant relies on Wikipedia as an authoritative source of information, though it is inaccurate and easily manipulated.
On Thursday, Google listed “Nazism” as the top ideology of the California Republican Party, prompting House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to complain about “a disturbing trend to slander conservatives.”
Wired explained Google’s reliance on Wikipedia was to blame — but also said that was no excuse (original links):
Conservatives have been quick to point fingers at Google and other tech giants, claiming another example of perceived liberal bias in Silicon Valley. In a tweet Thursday, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy posted a screenshot of the result—first reported by Vice—and called it a “disgrace.” But in reality, the result in question has far less to do with any widespread scheme within Big Tech to defame the Republican party than it does with Google’s imperfect reliance on Wikipedia and other easily manipulated open platforms to populate its search results.
Even knowing these risks, the tech industry writ large has leaned on platforms like Wikipedia to solve the problems of filtering out so much human-generated garbage. Earlier this year, Google’s sibling company YouTube announced that the company will begin publishing so-called “information cues” alongside conspiracy theory videos. Those cues will include content directly from Wikipedia that, ideally, debunks the conspiracy theory. Facebook, meanwhile, is testing a buttonthat allow users reading an article to get additional context about the topic, some of it lifted from Wikipedia as well.
You don’t need to look far to see how all of this can go terribly wrong. Wikipedia may be the world’s most successful attempt at crowdsourcing knowledge, but its pages are also susceptible to abuse, mischaracterization, and arbitrary changes.
For months, Facebook has smeared Breitbart News with a popup window that purports to inform readers about the company but actually presents false accusations against the company that are sourced directly from Wikipedia.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.