Google is acting on fake news on its Search platform by releasing tools that enable web users to flag up questionable content and reshuffling sites known to share such items down the search rankings.
Fake news is, as Google defines it, “blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information”. To handle this it has rolled out tools allowing user feedback to flag questionable content that, in the long term, can help refine results and identify bad players in the media space.
Enacting this feedback is an alteration to its SEO practices designed to “surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content”, according to Ben Gomes, vice president of engineering at Google.
Gomes said: “Today we’re taking the next step toward continuing to surface more high-quality content from the web. This includes improvements in Search ranking, easier ways for people to provide direct feedback, and greater transparency around how Search works.”
The company said that around 0.25% of queries (of overall daily traffic) is returning “offensive or clearly misleading”.
It added: “As part of that process, we have evaluators – real people who assess the quality of Google’s search results – give us feedback on our experiments. These ratings don’t determine individual page rankings, but are used to help us gather data on the quality of our results and identify areas where we need to improve.”
Gomes concluded: “We’ve adjusted our signals to help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content.”
Among these “signals” are factors like content age, search volumes and more.
Refining the whole process is user feedback in search, they can flag up offensive or misleading search autocompletes (which are of course inspired by human search patterns).
Tech giants are being called into action to ensure the data they are distribute is truthful. Facebook is among the groups with its critics, recently chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said it takes fake news "very seriously" but does not believe itself to be an "arbiter of the truth".