Google is asking for your help to spot fake news

Google says it has new ways to combat its fake news problem in search results.

Over the last few months, Google, along with Facebook and other digital platforms, has struggled to keep hoaxes and “fake news” stories from appearing in search.

The examples were pretty unsettling, ranging from Holocaust denials to Obama running for a third term to a wide range of other conspiracy theories.

On Tuesday, Google will have new feedback tools in its search results so users can flag content that appears to be false or misleading. (Facebook launched similar tools earlier this year along with tips to help you spot fake news.) This will help teach Google’s search algorithms to automatically weed out hoaxes, and in theory, keep them buried in search results.

Google also says its search algorithms have now been trained to demote “low-quality” content based on signals like whether or not the information comes from an “authoritative” page.

The user feedback tools will be available for featured snippets, the boxes that appear near the top of search results and attempt to answer your query without you having to click through to a web page. They will also appear in the window that helps automatically complete what you’re typing based on other searches.

Here’s what the autocomplete tool will look like:

And here’s what the snippets tool will look like:

Google also says it is improving the guidelines its human workers use to evaluate content that appears in search results. That work is also supposed to help train Google’s algorithms to keep fake news, hoaxes, conspiracy theories, etc. out of your feed.

Why it matters

As Google and Facebook become the primary sources of news and information online for many, the two companies are starting to realise they have a responsibility to make sure users are seeing facts, not hoaxes. Just like human editors at traditional media outlets have to curate content and separate fact from fiction, Google has to do the same on a massive scale for all the stuff published to the web.

At first, Google’s excuse was that so much content is uploaded online that it’s impossible to weed out every offender. But as the criticism mounted, Google has taken more concrete steps to weed out fake news.

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