Google targets 'fake news,' offensive search suggestions

Google search

By employing New Search Quality Rater Guidelines for low-quality pages that possess false information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories.

Google today announced that it's rolling out some changes to search results with the aim to combat fake news as well as offensive content.

Finally, in an effort to be more transparent, Google has updated its help center page to detail its new content removal policies.

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The changes involve different measures for ranking sites and people checking results are accurate. Among other things, Google's search engine pointed to a website that incorrectly reported then President-elect Donald Trump had won the popular vote in the US election, that President Barack Obama was planning a coup and that the Holocaust never occurred during World War II. As Search Engine Land founding editor Danny Sullivan wrote recently, search results may not actually be any worse than they used to be, but people increasingly see them as problematic.

Top: Screen shot of Google search.

"It was not a large fraction of queries - only about a quarter percent of our traffic - but they were important queries", said Ben Gomes, vice president of engineering for Google. He says that the problem now is the "spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information". Users will be able to let Google know if an autocomplete option or featured snippet is "hateful", "racist", "sexually explicit", "violent" and more.

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Google is also changing the signals it uses to directly influence rankings, with an eye towards pushing low-quality content down.

According to Google, the site sees searches in the trillions each year, with 15% of searches made each day being entirely new. Google tweaked autocomplete suggestions previous year, shortly after it became aware of the problem so things like this wouldn't happen. These people offer feedback on Google's search results to help the company identify areas it needs to improve.

Google has also introduced a new feedback mechanism for users to report inaccurate autocomplete suggestions or featured snippets - the boxes of text that appear at the top of certain queries. Google said the search company plans to implement algorithmic changes to the way it sorts individual pages to elevate high-authority pages and demote low-quality or factually incorrect content.

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"That feedback is then used to reshape the algorithms - the recipes, if you will -that Google uses".

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