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Journalistic Integrity in 2017
The phrase “fake news” has been thrown around quite a bit since the 2016 election. Social media sites and search engines had their share of culpability in spreading misinformation, no matter what your beliefs are. While savvier readers can spot fake news easily, some of it was pretty convincing.
Given that Google is the dominant search engine out there, they’ve decided to take additional steps to combat misinformation that somehow snaked its way up the search rankings by adjusting their algorithm. After all, search is the way that people tend to find out about things secondary to social media. In addition to fake news itself, low-quality content is also being filtered out such as hate speech and propaganda. However, “viral stories” victimizing small businesses that kept rising in Google ranks are now being struck down in Google’s algorithmic adjustments.
What is Google Doing to Combat Fake News?
Only certain web pages will appear in the search results. Google is adjusting signals so that more reliable and authoritative sites will rise to the surface faster than spam and propaganda.
Adding a human touch. Automation is great, but it can’t do everything. Machines can’t always catch conspiracy theories, hateful messages, hoaxes, and other malicious misinformation. Subsequently, Google is updating its Search Quality Rate Guidelines and having humans evaluate search results so the algorithm can more efficiently filter out fake news.
More transparency on how Google rankings work. For so many websites, getting a great Google ranking is really a life and death matter. Fake news and conspiracy theory websites have flourished after figuring out how to hack the old algorithm. By lending more transparency to how the engine itself works, it can become clearer why these sites were coming up on the search engine results pages by accounting for factors such as keyword frequency and site traffic.
Improved user experience and ability to report fake news. Google’s user experience has been rife with dark patterns (intended actions being impossible or incredibly cumbersome to do, such as report abuse) in that reporting things to Google admins is often difficult and time-consuming. The team is improving user experience by providing newer, more visible ways for users to report offensive, false, and other misleading results that show up in the autocomplete bar and featured snippets.
The SERP Seal of Approval
Google has a long way to go in making sure that fake news and other malicious content isn’t rising to the coveted first page of search results. Nevertheless, these algorithmic improvements and adjustments to user experience and filtering processes are likely to have an imminent positive impact and continually improve.
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