Google says tweets about slowing its News results are incorrect

Comments by the Google News lead appear to have been misinterpreted.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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Google denied it would slow search results to tackle fake news after two journalists tweeted from a conference that the search giant was considering such an approach to combatting misinformation. 

The denial came after Alfred Hermida and Doris N. Truong tweeted that Google News lead Valerie Streit told a private group the search giant was considering such a plan. The journalists were attending an Online News Association conference in Austin, Texas. 

Streit tweeted her comments had been misunderstood.

"I think my comment was misconstrued here," Streit tweeted. "We are absolutely not slowing down search results." 

A representative for Google also said Streit's comments had been misinterpreted, and that Google News isn't considering such a change.

The confusion comes as Google addresses mounting criticism for the stories it highlights in searches, particularly during crises. For example, after the Las Vegas shooting in October, Google displayed a thread originating on message board 4chan that named the wrong suspect. Similarly, a video accusing a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting of being a "crisis actor" became the top trending item on YouTube, which is owned by Google. 

The company is working on the issue. In March, it unveiled the Google News Initiative, a global effort to partner with news organizations to identify accurate information in breaking news situations. It also committed to helping publishers create sustainable revenue sources. It's pledged $300 million dollars over the next three years to meet these goals.

At the ONA conference, Hermida, who's also a journalism professor, tweeted: "Interesting. Google News looking at ways of slowing down real-time information at times of crisis to tackle bad actors." 

Truong, a multimedia journalist, tweeted: "Someone from Google News says they are talking about possibly slowing real-time search results, especially in situations where possibility of manipulating information is high." She later replied to note it was Streit who had mentioned the potential approach. 

First published Sep 14, 1:08 p.m. PT.
Update, 2:35 p.m. PT: Adds comment from Google. 
Update, 3:39 p.m. PT: Recasts, adds more context.