Google is asking for your help to spot fake news

Google is updating its search to demote fake news

Google will also update its "Search Quality Rate Guidelines", which are used by human evaluators of Google's search engine results.

The dominant search engine, Google, today said it has tweaked its algorithms in an effort to combat "fake news".

The change follows increased attention to flaws in top search results, including the promotion of fake news, and deliberately misleading or false information formatted to look like news, during the 2016 presidential election.

"When you visit Google, we aim to speed up your experience with features like Autocomplete, which helps predict the searches you might be typing to quickly get to the info you need, and Featured Snippets, which shows a highlight of the information relevant to what you're looking for at the top of your search results", Gomes explained. Ben Gomes, vice-president of engineering at Google, promises that such results "are less likely to appear" in the future. Besides trying to block fake news, Google has reprogrammed a popular feature to omit derogatory search suggestions.

The guidelines included examples of low quality and fake news websites, said Mr Gomes, to help them pick out "misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories".

Google's troubles with offensive content have been popping up with more frequency in recent months. Users will be able to let Google know if an autocomplete option or featured snippet is "hateful", "racist", "sexually explicit", "violent" and more. We plan to use this feedback to help improve our algorithms.

Google is also changing the signals it uses to directly influence rankings, with an eye towards pushing low-quality content down.

Google also promised to open up over how it makes such decisions in the future, although there remained criticism over its lack of transparency. According to the search engine optimizing service MozCast, now about 15 per cent of Google searches return a result including a featured snippet, which on Google.com just looks like a text box - one of many results - off to the right side. Google executives claimed the type of web pages categorized in this bucket are relatively small, which is a reason why the search giant hadn't addressed the issue before.

But the fact that searches such as "Is Obama planning a coup?" - or even "Who invented stairs?" - produced such questionable results meant it had to act.

"They simply give feedback about whether the results are good. That's impossible. But I do hope we see continued improvement in the weeks and months to come".

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