Google has revealed that it will replace the “In the news” section in search engine results with a rotation of “Top stories” in order to combat the rise of fake news content and avoid misleading Internet users. Fake news has been a hot topic since US Election Night, when fabricated content featured heavily in SERPs and on social platforms.
Google promised last week to ban any ads for fake news sites, a move that was mirrored by Facebook. The tech giant has now set out plans to rebrand its featured news section so that it can redress the balance between the top results for all stories and for those that are human-vetted by Google. The update is likely to roll out in the coming weeks.
“This is very important to us,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said last week. “At Google, we’ve always cared about bringing the most relevant and accurate results to users. And that’s where almost all of our work goes, at the end of the day. When I look at it, it’s important to remember we get billions of queries every day.”
He added: “There have been a couple of instances where it’s been pointed out, and we clearly did not get it right. And so, it’s a learning moment for us, and we will definitely work to fix it. Just in the last two days, we announced that we will remove advertising from anything we identify as fake news.”
The blog post that initially sparked the controversy claimed that Donald Trump had actually won the popular vote in the US Election. In fact, Hillary Clinton had over 1.7 million more votes than her rival. Despite this inaccuracy, the post continues to feature in the first page of SERPs when a user enters “final election results” into Google.
Fake news wasn’t an issue until October 2014, when Google decided to move away from only including legitimate news sources, such as those from The Washington Post and The New York Times, in favour of a system that surfaced a more “diverse range of voices.” Misinformation will continue to pose a major challenge for Google in the months ahead.