Google seeks all the news that's fit to search

Search king files patent for technology that ranks news stories based on quality, not just date and relevance.

Google is seeking to patent a technology meant to help its Google News section sort stories based on their overall quality, which could augment the current methods of ranking results by date and relevance to search terms.

In separate filings with the U.S. and world patent offices, Google detailed a new formula it has developed to help rank news stories in Web search results. The system would allow the company to sort news by source, rather than based merely on a story's direct relation to a certain search term or the time at which articles were published.

The company's filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, submitted in September 2003, describes the news-rating technology as a tool that "ranks the list of (search results) based at least in part on a quality of (their) identified sources." The technology, based on work by researchers Michael Curtiss, Krishna Bharat and Michael Schmitt, would let Google prerank content from specific news outlets to ensure that those stories appear above other search results.

Company representatives did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

At present, Google generates results based on the search engine's perceived relevance of content to a particular term and the time at which any particular piece of data or story is first published online. In the patent filings, Google concedes that while its existing system often generates thousands of results in response to individual search terms, the stories it unearths have no degree of worth assigned to them and may not come from reputable publishers.

"While each of the hits in (a list of search results) may relate to (a) desired topic, the news sources associated with these hits, however, may not be of uniform quality," Google said in the filing. "Therefore, there exists a need for systems and methods for improving the ranking of news articles based on the quality of the news source with which the articles are associated."

The company goes on to describe how content published by news outlets such as CNN and BBC, or companies that are "widely regarded as high quality sources of accuracy of reporting, professionalism in writing," may be of greater interest to its customers, and therefore should top news search results.

Google News has raised some hackles lately. In March, French news agency Agence France Presse sued Google, charging it with using the agency's articles and photos without authorization. The suit has forced Google to begin pulling thousands of photos and news stories. Critics have also attacked the search giant over its decision to include reports from National Vanguard, a publication that espouses white supremacy. In response, Google said it will remove the publication from its index.

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