Date
23 July 2017
Google is taking additional steps to curb the spread of misinformation online. Photo: Bloomberg
Google is taking additional steps to curb the spread of misinformation online. Photo: Bloomberg

Google takes aim at fake news, misleading search results

Google is retooling its powerful search engine to prevent sites peddling fake news, hoaxes and conspiracy theories from appearing in its top results, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Ensuring that fake news doesn’t surface in search requires “more structural” changes to the way search works, the company was quoted as saying Tuesday.

The changes include tweaks to the algorithm that determines which search results appear on top. 

Google gave few details on the mechanics of the change, beyond saying the shift will “help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content”, the Journal noted.

The search giant outlined additional steps to curb the spread of misinformation online that require human intervention.

For example, Google will train its evaluators—the people who vet search results—to better spot “low-quality” sites and make it easier for users to flag inaccurate results.

It marks the latest move by Google to try to fight fake news after it and rival Facebook faced criticism for doing too little to block misinformation during the US presidential election last year. 

Ben Gomes, vice president of engineering for Google, said 0.25 percent of daily search queries return “offensive or clearly misleading” content.

Those results can trigger a public-relations backlash, as it did in December when a white supremacist site was featured prominently in search results about the Holocaust.

The changes to the search algorithm are designed so that “issues similar to the Holocaust denial results” are less likely to appear, Google said.

Earlier this month, the tech giant started adding a “Fact Check” tag to some search results, showing whether or not the claims presented are true, false or somewhere in between.

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RC

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