Google targets 'fake news,' offensive search suggestions

Posted April 27, 2017

Google admitted on Tuesday that more "structural changes" in Search are needed to address these problems and outlined a number of ways it is handling the issues.

Google is stepping up its war on fake news by tweaking search to demote low-quality content and offering tools for users to report offensive Autocomplete and Featured Snippets suggestions. The company not only made changes to its algorithms but also introduced a new feedback system that collects opinion from the users about the search results.

In a blog post by Ben Gomes, VP of engineering, Google admitted that in some instances its search results have been returning "shocking or offensive" results.

Furthermore, it has updated its search quality rater guidelines to provide more detail about what are considered "low-quality" webpages.

Google's autocomplete feature works by having an algorithm take the letters and words that the users type in order to predict what they are searching before they are even done typing.

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The term "fake news" has now become a common one for the general public, but it started on the internet as sites began popping up that posted content that was, at best, misleading and, at the worst, flat out false or offensive.

With that into consideration, Google is increasingly using human assistance to evaluate and rate the accuracy and quality of its search results in general. "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". Their ratings will help the company gather data on the quality of its results and identify areas for improvements. "We've adjusted our signals to help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content so that issues similar to the Holocaust denial results that we saw back in December are less likely to appear". This feedback will then be used to improve Google's algorithm.

Users can also provide direct feedback and flag problematic results from Google's AutoComplete and Featured Snippets field, which displays answers to search questions in a dedicated field above search results. Although it has existed long before Google burst onto the scene, the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) industry boomed in no small part thanks to Google's PageRank system. These new feedback mechanisms include clearly labeled categories so you can inform us directly if you find sensitive or unhelpful content.

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.