Google takes aim at fake news, misleading search results

Posted April 27, 2017

Google frequently tweaks the algorithms that return relevant search results, sometimes privately, and other times publicly.

Google will continue to pick up misleading Facebook articles until its new search ranking protocol takes effect.

However, it could go a long way in reducing poor quality, inaccurate or outright offensive content appearing on Google search engine results pages, or SERPs. Google has previously used live staffers who manually evaluated the quality of search results - while these results didn't directly change individual search results, Google used the data to calibrate its page ratings.

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Starting today, it will be easier to flag such content that appears in both Autocomplete and Featured Snippets.

Additionally, Google is applying the same new parameters for its "auto-complete" function, which finishes search questions based on popularity.

The guidelines included examples of low quality and fake news websites, said Mr Gomes, to help them pick out "misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories". Just as editors at traditional media outlets have to curate content and separate fact from fiction, Google has to do the same on a massive scale for all the stuff published to the web.

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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 United States election, that President Barack Obama was planning a coup and that the Holocaust never occurred during World War II. Some of the new sites are even making fake news to earn views and clicks of other readers. This document provides guidance that real people use to test and rank the company's search results.

Nothing drove home the point better than the last U.S. presidential elections when seemingly incorrect information sought to improve the chances of Donald Trump. These signals have now been adjusted (not explained how?) but Google mentions that it'll now enable them to surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content. And if the boxes contain erroneous information users can directly tell the company to give feedback about the usefulness of the information.

Watch this space for latest news on Google products. The company didn't specify how many queries that really is - but the search-engine-focused news site Search Engine Land reported that Google estimated in 2015 that it handles 3 billion searches per day. Google is adding a feature to allow searchers online to flag these instances with a feedback form. Google has also tweaked its algorithms to make'low quality' posts show up lower in the search results, thereby restricting their reach.

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