Google is tweaking its search algorithms to deliver better search results and limit the spreading of fake news.
Fighting fake news is an uphill battle and a number of companies such as Facebook, Google and more are taking steps to promote higher quality content. In its latest bid to improve its search algorithms, Google has announced new feedback tools, changes to search ranking, as well as new transparency practices.
Google Fighting Fake News And Offensive Search Results
To counter fake news and inaccurate or offensive search results, Google now has new Search Quality Rater Guidelines [PDF] in place to help human evaluators assess the quality of search results.
The updated guidelines now offer clearer examples of poor-quality search results, including "unsupported conspiracy theories," offensive results, inaccurate and misleading information, hoaxes and such others. At the same time, Google has also improved its algorithms to prioritize results from authoritative sources in order to yield high-quality search results.
Google came under fire in recent months for prominently displaying search results that were offensive or highly inaccurate (or, in some cases, both). Back in December, for instance, the top search result Google displayed when searching "did the Holocaust really happen?" was from a white supremacist website. Google updated its search algorithms at that point too.
Prioritizing Relevant, Authoritative Information
According to Google engineering VP Ben Gomes, such search results have a lower probability of appearing with the latest changes in place. Gomes highlights that some people always try to cheat the system and come up with various ways to do it.
"The most high profile of these issues is the phenomenon of 'fake news,' where content on the web has contributed to the spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information," Gomes explains. "While this problem is different from issues in the past, our goal remains the same — to provide people with access to relevant information from the most reliable sources available. And while we may not always get it right, we're making good progress in tackling the problem."
Gomes continues by pointing out that Google search needs additional structural changes to have a long-term, impactful effect in the battle against fake news and otherwise bad results.
With this in mind, Google is making it easier for people to offer direct feedback, improving Search ranking to prioritize the best results, and offering increased transparency regarding how its Search process works.
Offering Direct Feedback
The new feedback tools allow users to report inaccurate autocomplete suggestions or various featured snippets (the text boxes that sometimes appear at the top of some search queries).
In recent months, those featured snippets have featured worrisome results such as hoaxes or information from sites that promote blatant conspiracy theories. With Google's new feedback tools (see image above), users can now report any offensive, inaccurate or otherwise improperly featured snippets or autocomplete suggestions straight from the results page.
When it comes to transparency, Google now better explains how its algorithms work to deliver search results. Google's help center page now explains its policy on autocomplete suggestions and content removal, while its "how it works site" now offers more information on search ranking.