Google has stepped up its attempts to eliminate offensive and upsetting content from search results by using thousands of independent contractors to flag inappropriate news, images and articles. The work of these “quality raters” will help the tech giant improve and optimise its search algorithms.
Google started using contractors to rate search results depending on their usefulness to real queries back in 2013, but these third parties will now be able to flag specific content as “Upsetting-Offensive” if SERPs show anything that, for example, promotes hate against a certain race or ethnic group, features graphic violence or contains information about harmful activities.
However, flagged content must be more than a merely upsetting topic. Google cited the recent controversy about Holocaust history searches to highlight that “a factually accurate source” is deemed appropriate, while a result showing a denial site deserves a red flag.
Google rolled out the rating system in an update on Tuesday. The company has come under increasing pressure during the last six months to clamp down on fake and extremist content, and its latest move should go some way towards deranking inappropriate articles, though its main aim is to improve algorithms moving forward.
“In other words, being flagged as ‘Upsetting-Offensive’ by a quality rater does not actually mean that a page or site will be identified this way in Google’s actual search engine,” Search Engine Land editor Danny Sullivan said. “Instead, it’s data that Google uses so that its search algorithms can automatically spot pages generally that should be flagged.”
Many of the offensive results may have been flagged previously by quality raters anyway, as some of these pages are likely to have fallen under the “Low Quality” content category or scored poorly on the “Needs Met” scale. Google said that this is just another way to improve its feedback programme and potentially deliver better results so that users can surface high-quality content that they want to read.
“We will see how some of this works out,” Google search engineer Paul Haahr told Search Engine Land. “I’ll be honest. We’re learning as we go…We’ve been very pleased with what raters give us in general. We’ve only been able to improve ranking as much as we have over the years because we have this really strong rater programme that gives us real feedback on what we’re doing.”