Google introduces its latest search changes in effort to fight 'fake news'

Google is updating its search to demote fake news

26 April, 2017

"We combine hundreds of signals to determine which results we show for a given query-from the freshness of the content to the number of times your search queries appear on the page", says Ben Gomes, VP of Engineering department who penned the blog post.

Although only a small fraction of Google's search results were being polluted with falsehoods, it was still happening frequently enough to threaten the integrity of a search engine that processes billions of requests a day, largely because it is widely regarded as the internet's most authoritative source of information. Hopefully this doesn't just present a new vector for further rank manipulation in autocomplete, though.

The company said that around 0.25% of queries (of overall daily traffic) is returning "offensive or clearly misleading". This means that Google's experimental plan to combat fake news make take a while, though we're taking Google's side that this is a cause worth the effort. Among other things, Google's search engine pointed to a website that incorrectly reported then President-elect Donald Trump had won the popular vote in the US election, that President Barack Obama was planning a coup and that the Holocaust never occurred during World War II.

Google also says it is improving the guidelines its employees use to evaluate content that appears in search results.

The updated guidelines, introduced last month, "explicitly provide" examples of low-quality pages that should be flagged by Raters and demoted as a result when combined with the changes to Google's algorithms.

In addition, Google is adding new public feedback tools for its AutoComplete feature in its search bar.

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Additionally, users can now flag autocomplete features and highlighted results that are offensive, false or otherwise problematic.

Google's Featured Snippets evolved as quick synopses of the answers users were searching for, such as when the Leaning Tower of Piza was built.

Google also promised to open up over how it makes such decisions in the future, although there remained criticism over its lack of transparency.

Speaking to Mr. Gomes and Pandu Nayak (a Google research fellow in search) on Monday, the executives explained that some of Google's problems come from users trying to game the system to gain a higher ranking for their content (which can lead to more ad dollars among other effects). Google executives claimed the type of web pages categorized in this bucket are relatively small, which is a reason why the search giant hadn't addressed the issue before.

Users can report suggestions for being hateful, explicit or violent.

Fake news is, as Google defines it, "blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information".

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