From the 2020 Presidential Election to the spread of COVID-19, 2020 and beyond has brought us many conspiracy theories. With conspiracy theories comes unreliable and perhaps biased sources and, last Friday, Google executes have announced that the search engine will notify people if their results are from unreliable sources. In other words, Google is introducing a new fact checking measure for conspiracy theories.
The prompt consists of a red warning sign with the words “Common Question” next to it implying that the results may be unreliable. The prompt then reads, “If this topic is new, it can sometimes take time for results to be added by reliable sources”. Common questions may also mean that content will be continuing to update as new information about the conspiracy theory is deciphered.
In terms of what search results will yield this warning, the Google staff will program its system to detect what specific topics have been trending on the search engine, especially those of which have limited sources available. “We’ll now show a notice indicating that it may be best to check back later when more information from a wider set of sources may be available”, says Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison for search.
Sullivan continues, “The notice isn’t meant to indicate whether the results you’re seeing are right or wrong: it’s simply a warning that additional information may come out later. When anybody does a search on Google, we’re trying to show you the most relevant, reliable information we can. But we get a lot of things that are entirely new”.
Google had started testing this feature about a week ago using topics such as UFO Sightings, Britney Spear’s Conservatorship, and COVID-19 spreading. According to the results, the warning was only appearing on a small percentage of the topics being researched. The research queries were also quite slim and thus difficult to look into. Also, the warning is only appearing to US users, which Google pledges they will change in the future.
With the vast number of unique features, it is no surprise that Google has become the lead search engine. It has taken great strides to provide context on what the user researches on the Internet. For example, it has already added fact checking labels on Google Images to prioritize reliable images. Now, they are addressing the validity of theories through the Worldwide Web. Once more reliable information spreads, the full truth will hopefully be revealed.