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Google will bury fake news in its search results

Tech giant updates its search algorithm to allow users to flag inappropriate content

A Google logo on the outside of one of its offices

Google aims to prevent fake news from spreading by hiding stories flagged as inaccurate in its search results.

The company said although the number of fake news stories being surfaced in search results is a very small proportion of the total news stories appearing at just 0.25%, the content is clearly misleading or just not correct, Google said.

The first step it has taken is to update its Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which offers examples of low-quality webpages that Google's real-life 'raters' use as a resource to decide which websites should be downgraded in search. They have toughened the rules for flagging content which could be construed as providing "misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories".

Google said this will be used to help its computer-powered algorithm to support the human raters, making autonomous decisions about what is fact and what is fiction. The search engine has also updated its ranking signals to surface more authoritative pages and demote the lower-quality pages.

The fial piece to Google's fake news eradication programme is to make it easier for anyone to flag content as unexpected, inaccurate or offensive from both autocomplete predictions and featured snippets, which will also be used to update the company's search algorithm.

"While this problem is different from issues in the past, our goal remains the same - to provide people with access to relevant information from the most reliable sources available," Ben Gomes, VP of engineering, said in a blog post.

"And while we may not always get it right, we're making good progress in tackling the problem. But in order to have long-term and impactful changes, more structural changes in Search are needed.

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