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Safari's 'Siri Suggested' Search Results Highlighted Conspiracy Theories, Fake News

Wednesday September 26, 2018. 12:00 AM , from Slashdot/Apple
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed News: Apple's Safari, one of the internet's most popular web browsers, has been surfacing debunked conspiracies, shock videos, and false information via its 'Siri Suggested Websites' feature. Such results raise questions about the company's ability to monitor for low-quality information, and provide another example of the problems platforms run into when relying on algorithms to police the internet. As of yesterday, if you typed 'Pizzagate' into Apple's Safari, the browser's 'Siri Suggested Website' prominently offered users a link to a YouTube video with the title 'PIZZAGATE, BIGGEST SCANDAL EVER!!!' by conspiracy theorist David Seaman (the video doesn't play, since Seaman's channel was taken down for violating YouTube's terms of service). The search results appeared on multiple versions of Safari. Apple removed all examples of the questionable Siri Suggested sites provided to it by BuzzFeed News.

[W]hen BuzzFeed News entered incomplete search terms that might suggest contentious or conspiratorial topics (as shown below), the search algorithms directed us toward low-quality websites, message boards, or YouTube conspiracy videos rather than reliable information or debunks about those topics. Meanwhile, Google does not feature such unreliable pages in its top search results. Those suggested results matter since Safari is one of the internet's most popular web browsers -- some estimates suggest it has captured over 10% of the browser market share. The poor suggestions may be a result of a 'data void,' which is 'what happens when a term doesn't have 'natural informative results' and manipulators seize upon it,' reports BuzzFeed. 'Many of the sites surfaced by the Siri Suggested feature came from conspiracy or junk sites hastily assembled to fill that void.' In a statement, Apple said: 'Siri Suggested Websites come from content on the web and we provide curation to help avoid inappropriate sites. We also remove any inappropriate suggestions whenever we become aware of them, as we have with these. We will continue to work to provide high-quality results and users can email results they feel are inappropriate to applebot@apple.com.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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