Google says that it recently tweaked its search algorithm to ensure that only relevant and authoritative content is surfaced during trending events and real-life crises as it continues efforts to improve the quality of experience for users on its platform.
The company’s Senior Search Engineer Pandu Nayak revealed in an interview with the Guardian last week that changes were made as it was concerned about the spread of misinformation and fake news during real-life events such as terrorist attacks and school shootings.
Tech giants have been criticised in the past for not doing enough to curb the spread of low-quality news and hateful material, but Google has now increased the weight of the “authority” signal in search so that renowned publishers and websites, which are more likely to provide accurate information, feature more predominantly.
Rather than remove content from search results entirely, Google prefers to reduce the impact and spread of misinformation. Nayak said that actively flagging and removing webpages does not actually have any positive impact on the issue of false information during trending events.
He added: “What we really want to do is to go down and understand why this problem occurred in the first place. Like, what was that in our algorithms that caused this problem to occur? And you get to the heart of the problem, you fix that, and now, even if you don’t solve the whole iceberg, you solve a large part of the iceberg.”
Google says that the search algorithm then reverts back to its natural state after a crisis has passed.