June 29, 2017

Google reveals changes made to reign in fake news

26 April 2017, 08:49 | Candice Butler

Google is updating its search to demote fake news


Vice president of engineering at Google Search, Ben Gomes, admits that people have been trying to "game" the system - working against the spirit of the goal of algorithms - to push poor-quality content and fake news higher up search results.

Google also says its algorithms have now been trained to demote "low quality" content based on signals like whether the information comes from an "authoritative" page.

"We're taking the next step toward continuing to surface more high-quality content from the web", Gomes continued, adding, "This includes improvements in Search ranking, easier ways for people to provide direct feedback, and greater transparency around how Search works".

Google isn't planning to rid fake news from its search results - but it's trying to purge it from the top.

Ranking changes: We combine hundreds of signals to determine which results we show for a given query - from the freshness of the content, to the number of times your search queries appear on the page.

The problem, according to Google, is that 15 percent of all daily searches are brand new.

Fake news is, as Google defines it, "blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information".

Sentence next for Volkswagen in US diesel emissions scandal
The $2.8 billion fine is part of a larger $4.3 billion settlement reached in January between Volkswagen and the the U.S. Justice Department. "This is a very serious and very troubling case involving an iconic automobile company", Cox added.

Google is retooling its powerful search engine to prevent sites peddling fake news, hoaxes and conspiracy theories from appearing in its top results. Now users can assess the snippet with anything from "I don't like this" to "This is harmful, dangerous, or violent" to "This is misleading or inaccurate".

Google's troubles with offensive content have been popping up with more frequency in recent months.

The executive added that the user feedback mechanisms were created to "include clearly labelled categories so you can inform us directly if you find sensitive or unhelpful content". For instance, if Google guaranteed that flagging content would remove a search result, unethical users could wield a "banhammer" to block content they didn't like or in order to favour their own content.

Although it also sells ads on its other services and independently owned websites, Google still makes most of its money from the marketing links posted alongside its search results.

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

Earlier this month, the company added new fact-checking cards to both Search and News results. However, if you searched using one of Google's voice assistant or smart home products and a snippet was returned, the context of the other results on a web page is missing and the service would read the snippet aloud as if that was the one true answer. "Some of the changes are already visible in terms of better results".

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