Google says it has new ways to combat its so-called fake-news problem in search results.
Over the last few months, Google, along with Facebook and other digital platforms, has struggled to keep hoaxes and fake news stories from appearing in search.
On Tuesday, Google will have new feedback tools in its search results so users can flag content that appears to be false or misleading. (Facebook launched similar tools earlier this year, along with tips to help you spot fake news.) This will help teach Google’s search algorithms to weed out hoaxes and, in theory, keep them buried in 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.
The user-feedback tools will be available for featured snippets – the boxes that appear near the top of search results and attempt to answer your query without you having to click through to a webpage – and the window that helps to complete what you’re typing based on other searches.
Here’s what the auto-complete tool will look like:
And here’s what the snippets tool will look like:
Google also says it is improving the guidelines its employees use to evaluate content that appears in search results. That work is also supposed to help train Google’s algorithms to keep fake news, hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and the like out of your feed.
Why it matters
As Google and Facebook become the primary sources of news and information online for many, the companies are realizing they have a responsibility to make sure users are seeing facts, not hoaxes. 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.
At first, Google’s excuse was that so much content is uploaded online that it’s impossible to weed out every offender. But as the criticism mounts, Google has taken more concrete steps to demote fake news.