Google Moves to Clean Up Bogus Search Results

Posted April 26, 2017

The search engine's parent company, Alphabet Inc., announced its plans to change a fundamental component of its algorithm that previously allowed false information to be sent straight to the top of its results pages.

In the company's ongoing quest to improve its signature search engine, Google today announced several new changes aimed at reducing the number of fake news results that show up on its website. "This can sometimes lead to results that are unexpected".

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

"While our search results will never be ideal, we're as committed as always to preserving your trust and to ensuring our products continue to be useful for everyone", Gomes wrote.

That effort will be assisted by what Google calls Search Quality Raters, real people who assess the quality of Google's search results.

"Our algorithms help identify reliable sources from the hundreds of billions of pages in our index", Google vice president of engineering Ben Gomes said in a blog post. Google tweaked autocomplete suggestions previous year, shortly after it became aware of the problem so things like this wouldn't happen. Users will be able to let Google know if an autocomplete option or featured snippet is "hateful", "racist", "sexually explicit", "violent" and more.

While Facebook has faced a backlash for the spread of fake news across its social network, Google has been criticized for results that leap to the top for specific queries. (Facebook launched similar tools earlier this year, along with tips to help you spot fake news.) This will help teach Google's search algorithms to weed out hoaxes and, in theory, keep them buried in search results.

Google is also changing the signals it uses to directly influence rankings, with an eye towards pushing low-quality content down.

The term fake news has been thrown around a lot over the past few months.

"For the first time, when you conduct a search on Google that returns an authoritative result containing fact checks for one or more public claims, you will see that information clearly on the search results page", Google said in a blog post.

The problem, according to Google, is that 15 percent of all daily searches are brand new.

As for feedback, Google is now making it easier for individual users to offer up feedback about offensive or inaccurate content appearing in its Autocomplete and Featured Snippets features.

But the fact that searches such as "Is Obama planning a coup?" - or even "Who invented stairs?" - produced such questionable results meant it had to act.