THE YCEO: Google Search results to give ‘diverse’ answers - YCEO Africa

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THE YCEO: Google Search results to give ‘diverse’ answers

Google says it will soon alter its Search tool to provide “diverse perspectives” where appropriate.

The change will affect the boxed text that often appears at the top of results pages – known as a Snippet – which contains a response sourced from a third-party site.

At present, Google provides only a single box but it will sometimes show multiple Snippets in the future.

The change could help Google tackle claims it sometimes spreads lies.

But one expert warned the move introduced fresh risks of its own.

Google introduced Snippets into its search results in 2014, placing the boxed text below paid listings but above other links.

The idea is to provide information that users want without them having to click through to another page.

Google acknowledged at the time that “fact quality” would vary depending on the request.

But it has been accused of providing “shockingly bad” information in some cases, including Snippets that suggested:

women were evil
the food additive monosodium glutamate caused brain damage
anti-fascist campaigners held an overly simplistic view of the world
Google offered a less controversial example of a problem, in a blog detailing its new approach.

It said that when users asked if reptiles made “good pets” they were given several reasons why the answer was yes, but if they asked if the animals made “bad pets” they were given contradictory advice.

It said this happened because its system was designed to favour content that aligned with the posed question, and suggested that offering different viewpoints would therefore be a better option.

“There are often legitimate diverse perspectives offered by publishers, and we want to provide users visibility and access into those perspective from multiple sources,” wrote Matthew Gray, Google’s Snippets chief.

But one company-watcher has doubts.

“Both Google and Facebook are trying to address claims that they played a part in disseminating misinformation,” said Joseph Evans, digital media analyst at the consultancy Enders Analysis.

“Google is addressing one of its most controversial products in this context.

“But it still looks like a refusal of responsibility to say that, ‘Sometimes we’re wrong, but we can solve the problem by offering multiple viewpoints.'”

He added Google now faced the challenge of when to present more than one point of view, as it was nearly always possible to find a source that contradicted conventional wisdom but not always wise to present it.

Source: BBC

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