Google Retools Search Engine to Downplay Hoaxes, Fake News

This giant focus group, which tests out changes in the search algorithm, has been told to pay more attention to the source of any pages rated highly in results, looking round the web to see whether they seem authoritative and trustworthy. That last article is from an organization called National Vanguard, which is identified as a US neo-Nazi white nationalist splinter group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. With these changes users should see less in the way of so-called "fake news" and other non-factual content (excluding searches for that material), and more accurate and relevant information pertaining to their search. A similar button will be added to the "featured snippets" section of its results pages.

Google also adding a feedback option that will enable users to complain about objectionable autocomplete suggestions so a human can review the wording.

Google framed the problem as a quality issue. Google says that while Search Rater feedback doesn't directly impact Search Ranking for individual pages, it does help them identify spots where the algorithm is falling down, and adjust accordingly.

Questions are bound to be raised about whether this panel, which Google says is representative of its users, is impartial and objective.

New Search Quality Rater guidelines: Developing changes to Search involves a process of experimentation.

The moves follow months after criticism of Google and Facebook Inc. for hosting misleading information, particular tied to the 2016 US presidential election.

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As part of this effort, Google is also getting more transparent about its products. "There are new ways that people try to game the system", Gomes said in his blog entry. In that environment, Google's challenge is to guard against abuse of the new feedback buttons.

At first, Google's excuse was that so much content is uploaded online that it's impossible to weed out every offender. "We don't expect the problem will completely disappear".

The process for flagging a featured snippet error. In the example Google provided, users can mark checkboxes to state whether a suggested search was hateful or sexually explicit. He says that the problem now is the "spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information".

As Mr. Gomes points out in his blog post, it's both a strength and a limitation of its service that Google doesn't create its own content.

Gomes said: "Today we're taking the next step toward continuing to surface more high-quality content from the web".


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