News, Culture & Society

Google’s search algorithm struggles to rank information

With millions of views published online every day, it can be difficult for Google to rank information correctly within its search engine.

Speaking this week, Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google’s parent firm, Alphabet, explained that it is ‘very difficult’ for the search algorithm to weed out the truth in a sea of opposing articles.

Thankfully, Schmidt believes the problem should be easy to address by tweaking the algorithm. 

Speaking this week, Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google’s parent firm, Alphabet, explained that it is ‘very difficult’ for the search algorithm to weed out the truth in a sea of opposing articles

WHY DOES GOOGLE STRUGGLE?

Inaccurate results are often down to “Google bombing” used by groups to be ranked highly. 

These include linking to a fake news site from several other sources and hiding text on a page that is invisible to humans but visible to the search engine’s algorithms.

Eric Schmidt said it very hard to differentiate what is fake to what is a different viewpoint. 

Thankfully, Schmidt believes that the issue should be easy enough to address by tweaking the algorithm.

He said: ‘I view those things as bugs as a computer scientist, so if you are manipulating the information and then our system is not doing a good enough job of properly ranking it … as a computer scientist, I can tell you, this stuff can be detected.’

Schmidt was speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum in Washington DC this week.

He said: ‘Let’s say that this group believes Fact A and this group believes Fact B and you passionately disagree with each other and you are all publishing and writing about it and so forth and so on. It is very difficult for us to understand truth.

‘So when it gets to a contest of Group A versus Group B — you can imagine what I am talking about — it is difficult for us to sort out which rank, A or B, is higher.’

Schmidt explained that the main issue is when there are very different viewpoints around, in which case the algorithm struggles to differentiate between fact and fiction.

He added: ‘Now, there is a line we can’t really get across.’

Thankfully, Schmidt believes that the issue should be easy enough to address by tweaking the algorithm.

He said: ‘I view those things as bugs as a computer scientist, so if you are manipulating the information and then our system is not doing a good enough job of properly ranking it…as a computer scientist, I can tell you, this stuff can be detected.’

In April, Google announced changes to its search algorithm in an attempt to combat ‘fake news’. 

It said it would change its search rankings to ‘help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content’.

The move was an attempt to prevent issues like the Holocaust denial results that Google saw in December.

In April, Google announced changes to its search algorithm in an attempt to combat 'fake news'. It said it would change its search rankings to 'help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content'

In April, Google announced changes to its search algorithm in an attempt to combat ‘fake news’. It said it would change its search rankings to ‘help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content’

The search engine placed an article from a neo-Nazi white supremacist website at the top of search results.

The company has also been criticised over its Autocomplete feature, which predicts what a person is typing, as well as the Direct Answers box at the top of its search results, which answers simple questions by quoting from a website.

In one example, Autocomplete suggested the phrase ‘are women evil’ when a user begins to type ‘are women’.

The move was an attempt to prevent issues like the Holocaust denial results that Google saw in December (pictured

The move was an attempt to prevent issues like the Holocaust denial results that Google saw in December (pictured

Earlier this year, Google came under fire for its search results. Danny Sullivan noticed that typing in 'is Obama planning a coup' came up with the answer yes

Earlier this year, Google came under fire for its search results. Danny Sullivan noticed that typing in ‘is Obama planning a coup’ came up with the answer yes

The Direct Answer box displayed ‘every woman has a little evil in her’. 

Inaccurate results are often down to ‘Google bombing’ used by groups to be ranked highly. 

These include linking to a fake news site from several other sources and hiding text on a page that is invisible to humans but visible to the search engine’s algorithms.

The company now also allow people to report inaccurate content in its autocomplete function and its Direct Answers box. 

Other sites, including Facebook and Twitter have been condemned for their handling of fake news – but for slightly different reasons.

Mr Schmidt explained that the main issue is when there are very different viewpoints around, in which case Google's search algorithm struggles to differentiate between fact and fiction

Mr Schmidt explained that the main issue is when there are very different viewpoints around, in which case Google’s search algorithm struggles to differentiate between fact and fiction

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter use algorithms that rely on factors like ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ to determine what is displayed on users’ news feeds, rather than ranking news based on what is true.

Schmidt added: ‘That is a core problem of humans that they tend to learn from each other and their friends are like them.

‘And so until we decide collectively that occasionally somebody not like you should be inserted into your database, which is sort of a social values thing, I think we are going to have this problem.’

TECH GIANTS SUMMONED TO RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE HEARING

Representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Google have been asked to appear on Nov. 1 at hearings on alleged Russian interference in U.S. politics called by the U.S. Senate and House Intelligence Committees, officials said.

Facebook and Twitter have already agreed to send representatives to the Senate committee hearing, a Congressional official said.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, L, and Vice President of global communications, marketing and public policy Elliot Schrage, R, on Capitol Hill after meeting with U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) in Washington, U.S. October 12, 2017.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, L, and Vice President of global communications, marketing and public policy Elliot Schrage, R, on Capitol Hill after meeting with U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) in Washington, U.S. October 12, 2017.

An official knowledgeable about House committee plans declined to disclosed whether the companies have agreed to send representatives to its hearing.

Sources said that Google had not yet notified the committees that it would send representatives to the hearings, though ultimately the company was likely to do so.

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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