Google has run into problems with its snippet function in the past. It has provided inaccurate information and even linked to offensive websites for answers to simple questions. A Google snippet answer once said that Barack Obama was the king of the United States and linked to an article by Breitbart to prove its claim.
Google is now testing new features to be able to come up with more accurate answers and avoid embarrassment.
The example that Google used for the wrong information is the question, "How did the Romans tell time at night?" A former answer provided by the snippet function only included references to the sundial. While it partially relates to the answer, it doesn't answer the questions, leaving the person conducting the search confused.
Google is working on reducing the amount of biased answers included on the search platform. This would work by showing more than one featured snippet to get contradictory information about the same topic. For example, the current snippets only answer the question from the perspective in which it was answered. By providing both answers, Google avoids giving such biased answers in the future.
Featuring multiple results also works in the searches for how-tos related to smartphones. Depending on the information that is presented, it's difficult to determine which carrier can be served by the snippet given by Google. To combat this problem, Google now lets people pick a carrier in the snippets portion.
"There are often legitimate diverse perspectives offered by publishers, and we want to provide users visibility and access into those perspectives from multiple sources," said Matthew Gray, leader of the featured snippets team at Google, in the blog announcing some of the tests.
Google will also be updating its Search Quality Rater Guidelines to help the human raters be able to determine which snippets contain false information. This will help them flag hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and offensive information that has been found in the snippet section.
"Last year, we took deserved criticism for featured snippets that said things like "women are evil" or that former U.S. President Barack Obama was planning a coup," said Danny Sullivan, Google's Public Liaison for Search in a blog post about the changes. "We failed in these cases because we didn't weigh the authoritativeness of results strongly enough for such rare and fringe queries."
Google admits that the feature will never be perfect, but they're trying to fix the current problems. Google also admits that 15 percent of the queries that are processed have never been asked before.