Google in clampdown against fake news, offensive search suggestions

Google is changing the way its core search engine works to help stop the spread of fake news and hate speech

26 April 2017, 8:46am
Google said the changes should thwart attempts to abuse its algorithms that let extremists promote their content
Google said the changes should thwart attempts to abuse its algorithms that let extremists promote their content
Google announced its first attempt to combat the circulation of “fake news” on its search engine with new tools allowing users to report misleading or offensive content, and a pledge to improve results generated by its algorithm.

The technology company said it would allow people to complain about misleading, inaccurate or hateful content in its autocomplete function, which pops up to suggest searches based on the first few characters typed.

It also said it would refine its search engine to “surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content”.

In a blog, Google said the changes should thwart attempts to abuse its algorithms that let extremists promote their content.

“In a world where tens of thousands of pages are coming online every minute of every day, there are new ways that people try to game the system. The most high-profile of these issues is the phenomenon of ‘fake news’, where content on the web has contributed to the spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive, or downright false information,” vice-president of engineering at Google’s search division, Ben Gomes, said.

The executive added that the user feedback mechanisms were designed to “include clearly labelled categories so you can inform us directly if you find sensitive or unhelpful content”.

Results would allow Google to change the way pages were ranked in search results.

Regarding the changes to its search algorithm, Gomes added: “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.”

Google was criticised last year for giving prominence to groups seeking to deny that the Holocaust took place.