Google to Revise Search Rankings to Downplay Fake News, Hate Speech

NEWS ANALYSIS: Google says it will downgrade the search rank of websites that show a clear pattern of distributing fake news, hate speech or deliberately misleading information.

Fake News Campaigns

By now you’re familiar with the problem of fake news. Some sites, claiming to provide news actually work with an agenda to present stories that spread their point of view, regardless of any connection with the facts.

The issue of fake news or what used to be known as political propaganda, came to the forefront during the presidential campaign in 2016, when it appears that the Russian government was working to help create and spread fake news in an effort to derail the campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Such efforts are continuing in Europe during current elections in Germany and France and again the Russian government is suspected to be backing those efforts. But fake news isn’t just the purview of the Russians. A number of right-wing and “alt-right” groups are also hard at work doing the same thing.

The purveyors of fake news often used the Facebook social network as a vector, but those false stories are picked up by Google where their appearance in search results gives them greater credence. Google will continue to pick up misleading Facebook articles until its new search ranking protocol takes effect.

Google announced the measures it intends to take to reduce the spread of fake news in a blog entry titled, “Our latest quality improvements for Search,” posted by Ben Gomes, engineering vice president.

Gomes explained how Google has long worked to prevent attempts to game the news search ranking system and has worked to keep search results as authoritative and accurate as possible. “There are new ways that people try to game the system,” Gomes said in his blog entry. “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.”

To fight the fake news problem, Google is asking for feedback from users. The new feedback tools work in Google’s autocomplete feature, which is when the search engine tries to anticipate what you’re going to ask and makes it part of the suggestions while you’re typing. In some cases, Google will show the most likely result and offer you a chance to provide feedback.

The second means of seeking feedback is though Google’s Featured Snippets. Those show up during a search session where Google will try to offer the most authoritative answer while it’s in the process of finding your answer.

You will see a feedback link in tiny print and if you click on it, you can provide feedback as to whether the source was accurate, used vulgar or hateful speech, is harmful or dangerous and whether you considered it harmful, dangerous or violent.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...