We have jumped from the information age to the age of misinformation, and Google knows it. And the problem is that we are not talking about misinformation, let’s say innocent, quite the contrary, every day we find perfect examples of how they try to use fake news to generate certain climates of opinion, favor certain thoughts and ideologies, and so on. And in a world in which new information channels appear every day, knowing how to sift through content without falling into confirmation bias is more complicated than it seems.
Like social media, search engines also face a problemThey can unwittingly become one of the main sources of spreading false news and similar intoxications, and they also face a significant risk if they choose to discard such content. Just look at the reactions social media faced last year, and also early 2021, when they started removing denialist content regarding COVID-19. If Google takes similar action, it would face a veritable storm of public opinion, even if its intentions were legitimate.
Fortunately, at least in principle, Google seems to have found a suitable solution to this situation, and in fact it is already in evidence, as recently verified by the researcher Renee DiResta, who happens to be dedicated to the study of disinformation, a work that she develops at the University of Stanford. And it is that as we can see in his tweet, DiResta was, by surprise, with a message from Google alerting you to potentially poor search results.
First time I’ve seen this response from Google Search. Positive step to communicating that something is newsy / breaking (my search was for a breaking culture war story), and highlighting that facts are not all known or consensus on what happened is still being formed. pic.twitter.com/kdv4OAHRlw
– Renee DiResta (@noUpside) June 23, 2021
In the message we can read “It seems that these results are changing rapidly”, and continues with “If this topic is new, it can sometimes take time for reliable sources to add results”. The message was displayed when DiResta did a search on a late-breaking topic, which fits with what Google says in that message, and is that false news usually start conversations and searches, which at least the first few hours will not be confirmed or denied by any really reliable source.
Researchers specialized in disinformation have long been warning of the risk of search engines. And is that the dissemination of hoaxes through the Internet is well known, but techniques such as locating searches with few results to sneak said content can be tremendously effective. This message, therefore, seems like Google’s first response to prevent poisoning experts from being able to take advantage of these gaps.
Although the function is still in testing, Google has decided to publish an entry informing about this new warning message, explaining its reason for being and giving some hints about its operation “We have trained our systems to detect when a topic is evolving rapidly and a variety of sources have not yet intervened. We will now display a notice indicating that it may be best to check back later when more information is available from a wider range of sources.