Google is updating its search engine to reduce misleading snippets and improve the way it educates people by adding more contextual information. Put another way, Google is expanding its efforts to stamp out misinformation on its formidable search service.
Snippets are the text you see highlighted at the top of a Search results page and are intended to provide a quick answer. While sources are included to back up the information, it appears that there have been instances of snippets providing a source that goes against common scientific consensus. In what is arguably the biggest change in the update (opens in new tab)featured snippets will have information based on “various high quality sources”.
Improved snippets will be backed up by a Google AI called United multitasking model (MUM). The AI will actively check the featured snippets and cross-reference this information with other sources to see if everyone agrees or if changes are needed. Google claims that this “technique has significantly improved the quality and usefulness…” of the featured snippets.
Omitting wrong information
MUM will also help combat misleading information by not displaying snippets for questions that have no answer or are considered a “false premise”. Google offers the strange scenario of a user looking for the day Snoopy from Peanuts assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. This has never happened, so it’s impossible to accurately inform the user and could result in a misleading snippet or give the wrong impression.
The company admits that situations of creating deceptive snippets are rare, but they do happen. Want to combat this situation preventively. Google’s claim snippets based on these “false assumptions” have already dropped by 40% as part of the update.
Other changes to Google Search affect the About page and content notices.
About This will now tell you how widespread a source is, comments about the source, whether or not it belongs to a parent company, and if there is any information missing. Google claims that all of this is important to provide the proper context. The search feature is also getting support in eight other languages, all of which will be released later this year. Language support includes Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese and Indonesian.
Content warnings are being expanded beyond news development to include quality results and questionable sources. The announcement clarifies by stating that this does not mean that good information is not available for a specific search query or that it is bad. It’s just a reminder to be more skeptical of the things you find on this page.
A release date for the updates has not been revealed, but it could be released soon. When we checked Google on desktop and mobile, we saw no differences: no new content notices or About this page. We asked Google when people can expect the changes. This story will be updated if we get a response.
Google has been hard at work fighting misinformation on its search engine. In a recent Q&A session, the company’s Public Liaison for Search revealed that Google Search reduced the number of irrelevant results by more than 50%. And recently, the tech giant revealed that it is making big changes to the Google Play Store to get rid of annoying ads and impersonators. Be sure to check out our coverage.