Popular search engine Google is reconfiguring its algorithm so that so-called “fake news” does not appear at the top of search results.
Google parent company Alphabet, Inc. recently announced a “rare, sweeping” change to its search function intended to bury “misleading, false and offensive articles online,” according to Bloomberg.
While the change doesn’t mean “fake news” will be eliminated entirely (yet), pages deemed to be “low quality” will be ranked lower in search results so as not to promote the content.
Google claims the new changes are in response to the “fake news” pervasive throughout the 2016 presidential election.
“It was not a large fraction of queries — only about a quarter percent of our traffic [0.25 %] — but they were important queries,” said Ben Gomes, Google’s vice president of engineering for search.
“It’s not a problem that is going to go all the way to zero, but we now think we can stay a step ahead of things,” Gomes said.
Google users will also be enlisted to flag offensive search results, “Featured Snippet” content and Autocomplete suggestions in realtime.
One example used by the company showed the query “is Obama planning a coup” produced a snippet which contained unconfirmed, speculative content from a lesser-known website.
Autocomplete suggestions, which predict search queries, will also feature a new option allowing users to “report inappropriate predictions.”
The announcement comes one week after journalist Mike Cernovich released leaked documents from a Google contractor which showed quality analysts, or “raters,” were being instructed to rate Infowars pages as “low” to “medium” quality – regardless of the factual content of the article.
The unidentified contractor directed search engine evaluators to rate Infowars articles as “low to medium,” noting it as an example of a “rather poor site” with a “poor reputation and conspiratorial bent.”
“There are a number of controversial, often debunked claims that the site regularly promotes,” the leaked contractor rating guide stated.
Google was later forced to admit the vendor was not instructed by the company to rank Infowars as “low quality,” and insisted the “mistake” would be rectified.
During the 2016 election, Google was caught presenting bias in Autocomplete search predictions related to Hillary Clinton when compared to predictions from other search engines.
The changes also follow months of controversy plaguing Google and social media site Facebook over their aid and promotion of terror groups and terror related content.
Last month, several European companies pulled advertising from Google after it was demonstrated the company was displaying ads alongside videos which promoted extremist content such as racism, hate and terrorism.