Google wants to solve the problem of misinformation on its search engine

In 2014, if you typed “King of the United States” into Google, you found yourself with a picture of Barack Obama, screaming passionately into a microphone.

Obviously, this is false. However, Google authoritatively proclaimed it after posting an article by Breitbart titled “ All Hail King Barack Obama, Emperor of The United States of America! “.

This episode shows just how clumsy Google can be with snippets, search results that the company elevates to the top of the page as a definitive answer to a query. The problem has persisted over the years, with Google bluntly claiming that some presidents were members of the KKK or that women were evil.

On Thursday, August 11, Google unveiled a handful of new features aimed at combating this kind of misinformation on its search engine, one of the most widely used information tools on the planet. Far from being a simple website that displays ten links as search results, Google today is a sprawling and cluttered site that highlights news articles, tweets, maps, hotel reservations, etc. . As the site has grown, and fake news peddlers have become more sophisticated, the search engine has become more vulnerable to spreading lies and misinformation.

“In recent years, the growth of misinformation has become an even more pressing challenge for us as a society,” the reporters told Wednesday. Pandy Nayak, vice president of research at Google. “We can only fulfill our mission if we can deliver high quality results. »

Google will use its artificial intelligence systems to improve search snippets. The company will use machine learning software, called MUM, or Multitask Unified Model, to verify information through several reliable sources that agree on the same facts. This process will allow the system to reach a general consensus, even if the sources do not formulate the information in the same way.

The group will also expand its ‘About This Result’ feature, launched last year, to include more context around search results. Along with a brief description of the website or business and the date the result was indexed, users will now see more detailed information about the result. For example, it is possible to know if a company belongs to another entity. Also, if Google can’t find a lot of information about a result, it will report that too. The group is also launching an “About this result” section in other languages, including Spanish, German and Indonesian.

Google also updates its “content advisories,” which it typically displays when there’s a hot news story, like a shooting or a natural disaster, when the situation is changing rapidly and little information is available. Now, in addition to notifying people when information is scarce, Google will also notify people when it is available but may not be reliable, based on Google’s search result ranking system.

These new features underscore the escalating fight tech giants are waging against purveyors of fake news. The problem will only get worse as the midterm elections in the United States approach. Google, like Facebook and Twitter, has come under fire for years for exploiting its platforms when it comes to conspiracy theories, covid-19-related news or religious extremism.

None of these updates, however, apply to YouTube, which is also owned by Google and has long been a major culprit in spreading misinformation. “Their problem is a little different from ours in search,” Pandy Nayak said, noting that YouTube hosts content and uses a custom feed, though he said the two teams share ideas back and forth. “We don’t work directly on YouTube, and YouTube doesn’t work directly on us. »

Article translated from Forbes US – Author: Richard Nieva

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