Google tweaks search to fight fake news, hatred

As the fallout from fake news continues, Google is trying to improve search.

Acknowledging that the blatant spreading of misleading or false information is “different from issues in the past,” Ben Gomes, vice president of engineering, said in a blog post Tuesday that Google is tweaking search rankings, making it easier for people to provide feedback and will be more transparent about how its search engine works.

“We’ve adjusted our signals to help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content, so that issues similar to the Holocaust denial results that we saw back in December are less likely to appear,” Gomes wrote.

Google and Facebook have been in the spotlight over fake news since the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Donald Trump’s victory. Both companies have since rolled out different tools to try to combat fake news, including fact-check labels and other initiatives, and pledged to starve purveyors of ad revenue.

Gomes said Google will now make it easier for people to flag questionable content in autocomplete and the featured snippets that appear with search results. Users will be able to let Google know if an autocomplete option or featured snippet is “hateful,” “racist,” “sexually explicit,” “violent” and more. (One recent report showed that Google autocomplete was being gamed by the right wing.) This feedback is expected to help Google’s algorithms return higher-quality results.

In other related news, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia fame is launching Wikitribune, a crowdsourced news platform that aims to fight the proliferation of fake news with professional journalists and volunteer fact-checkers.

 

Top: Screen shot of Google search.

 

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