Google’s snippets have been in the spotlight recently as the “one true answer” features were found to contain fake and misleading information. The problem is currently being considered worse than Facebook’s involvement in spreading fake news during the latest presidential elections.
What Are Google’s Snippets and Why Are They Important?
Google’s snippets were designed to automatically pick the best result that matches the search. For example, if one searches for “do pineapples grow on trees,” the snippet should contain an article explaining that pineapples grow on bushes, not trees. According to Google, the snippets are displayed through an
“automatic and algorithmic match to the search query, and the content comes from third-party sites.”
Why are they important? Because they should feature reliable, trustworthy content as most users rely on them when searching for quick information concerning a certain subject. Thus, falsehoods will start spreading as undeniable truths due to the high degree of trust people place in Google’s services.
Is It a New Development?
Sullivan has been monitoring the search engine for quite some time now. According to him, the algorithm gets most searches right, but when it doesn’t, the results are terrifying.
For example, if one searches for “US presidents in the KKK,” the snippet will feature a list containing William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, and Harry Truman. In reality, none of these former United States presidents have been associated with the racist organization.
The problem worsens when people use voice-activated assistants for their queries. During an experiment, Sullivan asked his Google Home device if former President Barrack Obama is planning to take down President Donald Trump. To his surprise, the device answered yes, implying that Obama is receiving help from Chinese allies with his not-so-secret coup.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 5, 2017
The Solution Is Simple
Sullivan suggests that, until the algorithm is fixed and the snippets no longer feature false – possibly dangerous – information, Google should remove the feature.
Moreover, the search engines vigilante is advising people never to trust snippets alone and to be thorough when searching for information on a certain subject.
The problem of fake news has been in the spotlight ever since the Democrats blamed Trump’s victory on fake news. At the time, Facebook took most of the blame as the company did nothing to filter the news circulating on the social media platform.
Now, it’s Google’s turn to answer for the continuous avalanche of falsehoods and political non-sense. What do you think about the snippet problem? Should Google renounce the feature?
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