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Google will warn people when search results could be unreliable

The notices will pop up during breaking news and other "rapidly evolving" situations.

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Google will give people more context about search results.

Angela Lang/CNET

Google on Friday said it will show people warnings about the reliability of search results when they look up breaking news or other "rapidly evolving" topics, as the tech giant combats criticism for its role in spreading misinformation. 

The notices will tell people when there may not be enough authoritative information online yet about a developing issue. "It looks like these results are changing quickly," says the prompt, which is displayed above search results. "If the topic is new, it can sometimes take time for results to be added by reliable sources."

Google said its software systems will decide when the warning needs to be triggered. 

"We'll now show a notice indicating that it may be best to check back later when more information from a wider range of sources might be available," Danny Sullivan, Google's public liaison for search, wrote in a blog post. Recode earlier reported Google's testing of the feature. 

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Google will show the notice during "rapidly evolving" situations.

Google

The new feature comes as Google, as well as rivals Facebook and Twitter, faces major scrutiny for misinformation, extremism and toxic content on its platforms. The criticism has intensified as the Silicon Valley giants have tried to combat falsehoods about COVID-19, as well as about elections in the US and around the world.

Google in recent months has tried to provide more context to its search results. At the company's I/O developer conference in May, Google debuted a new label in search called "About this result" that provides users in the US more context about that source. Google said it's working with Wikipedia to provide background on websites, including short descriptions. People can also see when the site was indexed and whether or not their connection to the site is secure.