20 January 2019
Google wants to add a new feature to its search engine: accuracy. Photo: Internet
Google wants to add a new feature to its search engine: accuracy. Photo: Internet

How Google helps sift facts from lies

Google is seeking to boost its stature as the dominant search engine by adding another feature: accuracy.

Right now, the internet service ranks search results based on their popularity, but users will be hard put in determining whether the information they are getting is factual or not.

As scholars and researchers often warn, the internet is a maze of tangled information, lies, half-truths and outright deceptions.

How do we know if the information we are getting is factually accurate or not?

Well, Google is working on it. In a research paper published in February, a team of computer scientists from Google has proposed a way to do it.

Right now, Google is already providing a service called Knowledge Graph. When, for example, you type in “Leung Chun-ying birthday”, the main search result is the answer: “August 12, 1954 (age 60 years), or when you search for “Jackie Chan nationality”, what pops up is “Hong Kong”.

Google culls those data from various databases such as Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook. It also has an internal research database called Knowledge Vault, which automatically extracts facts from billions of Web pages.

Whichever is the source, Google structures those facts into so-called “knowledge triples”, namely subject, relationship and attribute. In the aforementioned examples, the items are arranged thus: Leung Chun-ying, birthday, August 12, 1954, or Jackie Chan, nationality, Hong Kong.

To check if an item of information is factually accurate, all Google has to do is reference it against the knowledge triples in its giant internal database, according to the Washington Post.

And to check whether a web page or a website is accurate, Google will just look at all the site’s knowledge triples and see how many don’t agree with its established body of facts.

In time, or so it is hoped, Google will be able to rank web pages and sites not only according to their popularity but also their accuracy.

That would be a great leap forward for internet search.

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