Google has started testing a new feature that will warn users when they search for a topic that may have unreliable results. Seemingly, this is a big step by Google and will give users more context on the news circulating. For example, a search for “UFO sighting” may have an unreliable result warning.
This new feature will warn users that the result they are seeing are alternating, instantaneously, and reads, in part, “If this topic is new, it can sometimes take time for results to be added by reliable sources.” Google affirmed to Recode that it began testing the feature about seven days prior. Right now, the organization says the notification just appears up in a small percentage of searches, which tend to be about developing trending topics.
Tech Giant companies like Google, Twitter, Facebook have previously been accused of spreading misinformation, conspiracy theories, and unverified news stories that run rampant on the internet. Despite these allegations, these companies highly refrained from taking a post down in all but the most extreme cases, citing a commitment to free speech values. In the previous year, there have been instances where Twitter took down verified accounts which were alleged of spreading misinformation. But the approach Google is taking, by simply warning the viewer without blocking the content, reflects a more long-term incremental approach to educating users about questionable or incomplete information.
“When anybody does a search on Google, we’re trying to show you the most relevant, reliable information we can,” said Danny Sullivan, a public liaison for Google Search. “But we get a lot of things that are entirely new.”
Sullivan said the notice isn’t saying that what you’re seeing in search results is right or wrong — but that it’s a changing situation, and more information may come out later.
As an example, Sullivan referred to a report about a suspected UFO sighting in the UK.
“Someone had gotten this police report video released out in Wales, and it’s had a little bit bit of press coverage. But there’s still not a lot about it,” said Sullivan. “But people are probably searching for it, they may be going around on social media — so we can tell it’s starting to trend. And we can also tell that there’s not a lot of necessarily great stuff that’s out there. And we also think that maybe new stuff will come along,”
There are still a few inquiries regarding how this all will function, however. For instance, it’s anything but clear, precisely what sources Google finds to be dependable on a given search result, and the number of solid sources needs to say something before a questionable trending news topic loses the label. As the feature carries out more extensively, we can probably hope to see more conversation about how it’s executed.