Google today announced a new set of changes to its search engine, in an effort to deliver higher quality results and limit fake news. The company outlined changes to its search ranking, feedback tools, and transparency practices in a blog post published today.
To limit the spread of offensive or inaccurate search results, Google recently updated its Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which human evaluators use to gauge the quality of search results. The updated guidelines provide clearer examples of low-quality results, including “misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories,” engineering VP Ben Gomes wrote in the blog post. Google has also tweaked its algorithms to prioritize authoritative results.
Google faced criticism in recent months for delivering search results that were wildly inaccurate or offensive. In December, Google’s top result for the query “did the Holocaust happen?” came from a white supremacist website. Gomes writes that such results “are less likely to appear” under the changes announced this week.
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’s featured snippets have in recent months sourced results from sites that traffic in conspiracy theories and hoaxes. Users can now report inaccurate or offensive snippets and autocomplete suggestions directly from the results page.
Google is seeking to be more transparent about its search practices, as well, and how its algorithms can deliver outlandish results. The company’s policy on content removal and autocomplete suggestions is now available on its help center page, and more detailed information on search ranking has been added to its “how search works” site.