Google Starts Downranking Fake News

Posted April 26, 2017

On Tuesday, Google will have new feedback tools in its search results so users can flag content that appears to be false or misleading.

"Today, in a world where tens of thousands of pages are coming online every minute of every day, there are new ways that people try to game the system", proclaimed Ben Gomes, vice president of engineering, in a post on Google's official blog.

The company's main search product has similarly been accused of spreading extremism: in late 2016, a search for "did the Holocaust happen" gave, as its first result, a link to Holocaust denial on racist website Stormfront. This document provides guidance that real people use to test and rank the company's search results.

Since the USA election, several companies including Google and Facebook have taken steps to deal with false information that looks legitimate being passed through their products. As Search Engine Land founding editor Danny Sullivan wrote recently, search results may not actually be any worse than they used to be, but people increasingly see them as problematic.

Since time immemorial (1998) Google's bread, butter, and raison d'être has been search. 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.

The algorithm for the Google search engine will be modified while offering more options to flag inappropriate content.

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To address the problem, Google began revising the closely guarded algorithms that generate its search with the help of 10,000 people who rate the quality and reliability of the recommendations during tests.

From Facebook to Wikipedia, internet organizations are focusing efforts more than ever before to crack down on fake news - poor-quality web content that typically spreads through misleading, often offensive headlines.

Google has marked the issue as a different problem from existing fake news issues, but its motto stays the same - i.e. - to decrease the volume of such sources. The main takeaway is the change in the ranking system.

Earlier this month, the tech giant started adding a "Fact Check" tag to some search results, showing whether or not the claims presented are true, false or somewhere in between.

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.

The second means of seeking feedback is though Google's Featured Snippets.