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Google tweaks search results to squash fake news

Google is ramping up its fight against fake news with adjustments to its search rankings and autocomplete.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
2 min read
Google asks "What do you think?" about the search results you got.
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Google asks "What do you think?" about the search results you got.

Google wants you to flag search results that are offensive or unhelpful.


With fake news having set up shop across the internet, Google wants to make it harder to find and spread hoaxes.

Google announced Tuesday that it's changing how its search engine works to "surface more high quality content from the web." The search engine giant said that about 0.25 percent of its results had "offensive or clearly misleading content," and it set out to fix that by changing how results are ranked and introducing reporting tools for users.

Over the last month, after Google updated its search quality guidelines, it used testers to weed out low-quality content, which included fake news, offensive results and bogus conspiracy theories. The search giant collected the data from the evaluators and is applying it to the ranking algorithm to push fake news further down in search results.

Google said its improved algorithm would prevent incidents like Holocaust deniers popping up if you search "did the Holocaust happen," which occurred in December.

The search engine's algorithm has caused Google plenty of headaches in the past, with autocomplete giving offensive suggestions about women, Muslims and Jews. It's also lost lawsuits in Japan and Germany over the search suggestions.

"The content that appears in these features is generated algorithmically and is a reflection of what people are searching for and what's available on the web," Google Search's vice president of engineering, Ben Gomes, said in a blog post. "This can sometimes lead to results that are unexpected, inaccurate or offensive."

The company is now allowing users to flag results that are offensive or unhelpful, in both the autocomplete suggestions and the featured results.

Google joins internet giants like Facebook, Mozilla and Wikipedia in the web's uphill battle against fake news.

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