Like its rival Facebook, Google is making moves to fight the misinformation it helps spread.
Some Google searches yield more than clickable links — they result in snippets that the laziest of searchers can take away and claim as truth in the age of instant gratification and smart speakers that read search results out loud.
The problem is some of those snippets, surfaced by algorithms, have been controversial or just flat our wrong — sometimes fake news.
“Last year, we took deserved criticism for featured snippets that said things like ‘women are evil’ or that former U.S. President Barack Obama was planning a coup,” Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison for search, said in a blog post Tuesday.
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Google’s solution? It’s going to offer up even more snippets.
“There are often legitimate diverse perspectives offered by publishers, and we want to provide users visibility and access into those perspectives from multiple source,” Matthew Gray, the software engineer who leads the featured snippets team, told Sullivan in the post.
When appropriate, Google will offer more than one snippet to provide more information, and that information might even be the answer a user was seeking. The company is also considering including “near matches” in snippets, which could lead searchers to find what they truly want, Sullivan wrote.
Google’s move follows other changes it has made in the past year, including making it easier for search users to flag questionable snippets (results) and autocomplete (questions). Some critics have charged that Google’s autocomplete questions were being gamed by the right wing, who have a bunch of websites and online content that have grown into a vast network of links that are picked up by the search giant’s algorithms.
The company knows it still has it work cut out for it, so it is continuing to ask people for feedback.
“Featured snippets will never be absolutely perfect, just as search results overall will never be absolutely perfect,” Sullivan wrote.
Above: A screenshot of Google search.
Tags: fake news, Google, misinformation, Search, snippets