Google is warning users when its search results might be unreliable

Technology

The Verge 25 June, 2021 - 11:10am 48 views

The feature is aimed at rapidly changing news stories

The notice is initially appearing on US-based English-language results “when a topic is rapidly evolving and a range of sources hasn’t yet weighed in.” Google will expand the tool’s presence to other markets in the coming months.

“While Google Search will always be there with the most useful results we can provide, sometimes the reliable information you’re searching for just isn’t online yet,” the company explains. “This can be particularly true for breaking news or emerging topics, when the information that’s published first may not be the most reliable.” Recode reported on the feature yesterday, following up on a tweet from Stanford Internet Observatory researcher Renee DiResta.

That whimsical example aside, Google has inadvertently showcased incorrect information after mass shooting events — where early official reports are often inaccurate and deliberate misinformation is common. (This is sometimes exacerbated by “data voids,” or keywords that have few search results and can be easily hijacked by bad actors.) This warning won’t necessarily stop bad content from surfacing, and it’s not clear exactly how Google determines a sufficient range of sources. But it could remove some of the false legitimacy that high Google placement can confer on early, unreliable search results.

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Google starts warning users if search results are likely to be poor

The Guardian 25 June, 2021 - 11:30am

The new warning was spotted by Renee DiResta, an academic who studies misinformation at Stanford University. “It looks like these results are changing quickly,” Google will now caution users. “If this topic is new, it can sometimes take time for results to be added by reliable sources.”

“First time I’ve seen this response from Google Search,” DiResta said. “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.”

While social media is regularly linked with misinformation, researchers have long cautioned that search engines can be powerful tools for spreading falsehoods. Data voids, search engine queries that have little to no results, can often lead to fringe claims being given undue prominence – a particular concern for breaking news.

In a blogpost, Danny Sullivan, public liaison for search at Google, said: “We’ve trained our systems to detect when a topic is rapidly evolving and a range of sources hasn’t yet weighed in. 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.”

The warning tends to appear for searches with a lot of recent hits, but few from reputable sites. For instance, a recent report of a UFO sighting in Wales had spread rapidly among conspiracy theorists, but had little mainstream attention. That meant that a search for the terms “ufo 106 mph” briefly brought up the warning, Sullivan told the tech site Recode.

“Someone had gotten this police report video released out in Wales, and it’s had a little bit of press coverage. But there’s still not a lot about it,” Sullivan said. “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.”

Google Search won't show results for changing quickly topics - 9to5Google

9to5Google 25 June, 2021 - 10:46am

Google has trained Search to “detect when a topic is rapidly evolving” and will now display a “changing quickly” notice when a “range of sources hasn’t yet weighed in.” It comes as information around breaking or emerging news “may not be the most reliable.”

While Google Search will always be there with the most useful results we can provide, sometimes the reliable information you’re searching for just isn’t online yet. This can be particularly true for breaking news or emerging topics, when the information that’s published first may not be the most reliable.

Rather than show what’s immediately available, Google is leveraging a “It looks like these results are changing quickly” notice:

If this topic is new, it can sometimes take time for results to be added by reliable sources.

The example query Google gave today is “ufo filmed traveling 106 mph.” Users are advised to check back later in a sign that Google is prioritizing accuracy rather than showing information at all cost. It remains to be seen how vast the updated classification and detection systems are.

It comes as Google started warning last year when there are any “great matches for your search.” However, in that scenario, Google will suggest tips on how to reframe your query but still show results. Meanwhile, there’s also the “About this result” feature that got stage time at I/O.

Across these features, our goal is to provide more context about your results so you can more confidently evaluate the information you find online. These new notices are rolling out in English in the US to start, and we look forward to expanding these and other related features over the coming months.

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Google to warn you if the search results are unreliable

GSMArena.com 25 June, 2021 - 10:38am

Google recently started fact-checking users' search results in order to provide reliable sources of information. However, breaking news is too recent and once the media coverage goes wild, the search engine can't assess which source is trustworthy and which is not.

That's why Google will start warning you if it can't guarantee the reliability of the sources that show in your search result. It then explains that the topic you are searching for is new and it takes time for the algorithm to pick out reliable sources.

It's also important to note that the current info bracket is hidden in the "about this result" so the update would bring those notices up front and make them more visible to the user. Those steps should help battle misinformation online.

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Google is now warning users when it doesn't have a good answer

Daily Mail 25 June, 2021 - 09:52am

By Dan Avery For Dailymail.com

Google is finally admitting it isn't all-knowing: the search-engine giant is testing a feature that will notify users if results are unreliable or 'changing quickly.'

It's part of Google's ongoing efforts to battle misinformation and conspiracy theories, especially in the wake of the contentious 2020 US presidential election and COVID-19 pandemic.

The company has used the Google News Initiative to strengthen reliable outlets and 'collaborate with journalists and entrepreneurs to help build the future of media.'

Now it's working to give users additional context about breaking topics although, according to Engadget, the notice is only showing up in a small percentage of searches.

'When anybody does a search on Google, we're trying to show you the most relevant, reliable information we can,' Danny Sullivan, public liaison for Google Search, told Recode. 'But we get a lot of things that are entirely new.' 

If results on certain topics are unreliable or 'changing quickly,' Google will now notify users with a warning announcement 

As an example, Sullivan referenced a search about a UFO supposedly caught on a police helicopter camera in 2016 doing 106 MPH.  

'Someone had gotten this police report video released out in Wales, and it's had a little bit of press coverage,' he told Recode. 'But there's still not a lot about it.' 

But it's getting buzz on social media, 'so we can tell it's starting to trend,' he added. '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.'

Google has introduced numerous features in recent years to stem the spread of misinformation, about everything from the 2020 US presidential election to alleged UFO sightings

Searching 'UFO 106 mph' on Google will bring up a brief that 'it looks like these results are changing quickly,' advising the user that if a topic is new 'it can sometimes take time for results to be added by reliable sources.'

Google still shared stories about the alleged sighting under the announcement from multiple news outlets.

In the larger picture, UFO sightings have become a major search topic as the US government is expected to release a declassified report on unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAP) any day now.

Other examples of popular searches that could trigger the warning, according to Engadget, include 'why is britney on lithium' and 'black triangle ufo ocean'

Google Search liaison Danny Sullivan confirmed frequently asked questions (FAQs) will be limited to two per snippet, at least in the US

In April 2020, Google started telling people if there weren't enough good matches for a topic for it to provide results.

In February, Google introduced an 'about' button that provided additional context to results, like a brief Wikipedia description or details on when a story was published.

Last week, Sullivan confirmed the company was limiting FAQ-heavy results to just two per search result snippet.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) tabs are often useful in predicting user's queries about a topic. They were rolled out in 2019 but can take up a lot of space, pushing other results further down the page.

The limiting of FAQs appears to be limited to the United States, according to Search Engine Journal.

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Google Showing "Reliable Sources" Prompt on Trending Searches

Search Engine Journal 25 June, 2021 - 08:31am

Google is testing a new prompt on trending searches that do not have enough reliable sources. The new prompt may be meant to help make users more discerning about the information they are seeing.

According to Google, these changes are rolling out in the United States in English first.

“…sometimes the reliable information you’re searching for just isn’t online yet. This can be particularly true for breaking news or emerging topics, when the information that’s published first may not be the most reliable.

To help with this, we’ve trained our systems to detect when a topic is rapidly evolving and a range of sources hasn’t yet weighed in.

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.”

“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.”

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

The new notice is about evolving topics. These are trending news articles or topics that do not yet have enough authoritative sources.

This might have something to do with recent research by Google and MIT that discovered that a simple prompt can cause users to snap out of their attention stream and become more critical about the information they are receiving.

Someone tweeted that they were seeing a new prompt from Google about evolving topics.

The above evolving topic notice was given in response to a search for “black triangle ufo ocean.”

It is an evolving story based on a report by a single news organization that the Pentagon has video evidence of a type of triangular UFO known as a black triangle UFO.

Google is thus showing this evolving topic notice because there may not be enough reliable sources on this trending search query to verify the accuracy or truthfulness of it.

In a news report on Vox, Google’s Danny Sullivan is quoted as saying,

“…we get a lot of things that are entirely new …people are probably searching for it… 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.”

There is new research that might or might not be directly connected to this new prompt.

The recent study by researchers associated with Google/Alphabet and MIT discovered that simple prompts can help users become more critical about the information they are seeing and subsequently share.

There is no explicit statement from Google that this study influenced the new Google prompt.

However the the research and the prompt have undeniable similarities to each other in terms of helping users be aware that a topic may not have reliable sources.

The new research was published in May 2021. The researchers from Google (actually an Alphabet company called Jigsaw) and MIT discovered that shifting user’s attention could help them become more critical about the information they were seeing.

“Recent research suggests that shifting users’ attention to accuracy increases the quality of news they subsequently share online.

…we identify a variety of different accuracy prompts that successful increase sharing discernment across a wide range of demographic subgroups while maintaining user autonomy.”

“I’m currently focused on countering disinformation and harmful speech on the internet.”

This new prompt may be a new approach by Google to help users become more critical about trending information and to help stop the spread of misinformation.

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Google Search notice warns searchers when results are new and possibly unreliable

Search Engine Land 25 June, 2021 - 05:44am

Google is testing a new search feature that tells the searchers when the results for their query are new and thus possibly unreliable. The notice reads :

“When anybody does a search on Google, we’re trying to show you the most relevant, reliable information we can, but we get a lot of things that are entirely new,” Danny Sullivan of Google told Vox when the publication first reported this. In situations like this, Google needs time to build reliable search results and more sites likely have not written reliable, trustworthy content.

What it looks like. Here is a screenshot from Vox:

Similar features previously released. In April 2020, Google launched a feature to communicate to searchers when the search results didn’t provide any great results. The overall goal of both features is the same — to say that Google Search may not have the best answers for that specific query and Google is aware of it and you should be too.

More details. “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,” Sullivan told Vox. “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 [for searchers]. And we also think that maybe new stuff will come along.”

In sum, the warning indicates that the current index is missing what Google would consider reliable content on a search topic, and the results will be better when more information comes along.

Why we care. The in-SERP warning indicates that Google knows when its may not show the best search results. This warning is also helpful to searchers who may be looking for sensitive topics that are newer. Google could use this warning to prevent users from going to spammy, click-baity, or fake information websites.

The fact that the search engine can know these cases is pretty impressive. It just showcases how smart the search company can be, and when search fails, we often notice it in a big way.

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Google's latest feature warns you if search results may not be reliable | Engadget

Engadget 25 June, 2021 - 03:13am

It's designed to give search users extra context about new or breaking information. "When anybody does a search on Google, we’re trying to show you the most relevant, reliable information we can," Google Search liaison Danny Sullivan told Recode. "But we get a lot of things that are entirely new."

A box above the results advises users that "it looks like these results are changing quickly," adding that "if this topic is new, it can sometimes take time for results to be added by reliable sources." As an example, it cited a recent news story about a UFO supposedly caught on a thermal police helicopter camera doing 106 MPH.

"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."

If fully implemented, the new feature would add to Google's recent efforts to inform users about the quality of search results. In February, the company introduced "about this result" panels that bring up a description of the linked website. That will either detail how the site sources information or other information about when it was first indexed.

However, the "about this result" pop-ups are hidden behind a menu that folks may not know to click on. The latest feature in testing warns users front and center that the results may not be reliable, hopefully giving users pause before they spread any misinformation. 

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Google is starting to warn users when it doesn’t have a reliable answer

Vox.com 24 June, 2021 - 05:45pm

Google is testing a new feature to notify people when they search for a topic that may have unreliable results. The move is a notable step by the world’s most popular search engine to give people more context about breaking information that’s popular online — like suspected UFO sightings or developing news stories — that are actively evolving.

The new prompt warns users that the results they are seeing are changing quickly, and reads, in part, “If this topic is new, it can sometimes take time for results to be added by reliable sources.” Google confirmed to Recode that it started testing the feature about a week ago. Currently, the company says the notice is only showing up in a small percentage of searches, which tend to be about developing trending topics.

Companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook have often struggled to handle the high volume of misinformation, conspiracy theories, and unverified news stories that run rampant on the internet. In the past, they have largely stayed away from taking content down in all but the most extreme cases, citing a commitment to free speech values. During the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 US elections, some companies took the unprecedented action of taking down popular accounts perpetuating misinformation. But the kind of label Google is rolling out — which simply warns users without blocking 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.”

As an example, Sullivan cited 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,”

Other examples of trending search queries that could currently prompt the notice are “why is britney on lithium” and “black triangle ufo ocean.”

The feature builds on Google’s recent efforts to help users with “search literacy,” or to better understand context about what they’re looking up. In April 2020, the company released a feature telling people when there aren’t enough good matches for their search, and in February 2021, it added an “about” button next to most search results showing people a brief Wikipedia description of the site they’re seeing, when available.

Google told Recode it ran user research on the notice that showed people found it helpful.

The new prompt is also part of a larger trend by major tech companies to give people more context about new information that could turn out to be be wrong. Twitter, for example, released a slew of features ahead of the 2020 US elections cautioning users if information they were seeing was not yet verified.

Some social media researchers welcome the types of added context like the one Google rolled out today, including Renee DiResta at the Stanford Internet Observatory who tweeted about the feature. It’s a welcome alternative, they say, to the debates around whether or not to ban a certain account or post.

“It’s a great way of making people pause before they act on or spread information further,” said Evelyn Douek, a researcher at Harvard who studies online speech. “It doesn’t involve anyone making judgments about the truth or falsity of any story but just gives the readers more context. … In almost all breaking news contexts, the first stories are not the complete ones, and so it’s good to remind people of that.”

There are still some questions about how this all will work, though. For example, it’s not clear exactly what sources Google finds to be reliable on a given search result, and how many reliable sources need to weigh in before a questionable trending news topic loses the label. As the feature rolls out more broadly, we can likely expect to see more discussion about how it’s implemented.

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