the search results as well as the news results (since on their faq page they said the news follows the search algorithm closely) are ranked by page ranks.
PAGE RANK DEFINED: Condensed version
PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.”
if links are “votes” by google’s algorithm, the author brought up an interesting point of distinguishing positive vote from negative vote to improve the algorithm. obviously not every time you link someone is to praise them.
google’s popularity oriented algorithm has caused other problems. but when it’s apparently helping to spread China’s one-sided tightly controlled news source, it can’t be good.