Project OWL and Google’s Fight on Fake News

Project Owl is an endeavor by Google to reduce the amount of fake news and hate speech from showing in its search results authoritative content and enlisting feedback about suggested searches and featured snippets answers. The effort is supported primarily through user feedback with changes to a few of its search capabilities. Project Owl is Google’s internal name for its endeavor to fight back on problematic searches

Google is launching:

  • a new feedback form for search suggestions, plus formal policies about why suggestions might be removed.
  • a new feedback form for “Featured Snippets” answers.
  • a new emphasis on authoritative content to improve search quality.

The first significant change involves “Autocomplete.” This is when a user begins to type in the search bar and Google suggests topics to search on. It was designed to speed up searching and came from the most popular searches. However, since suggestions come from real user searches, there can be some distasteful suggestions that are related to the topic the user was initially interested in. For example, if a user started typing “Did the holocaust…”, Google often suggested “Did the holocaust really happen?” as a possible search.

Google has made a change to their search bar by including a new “Report inappropriate predictions” link that appears at the bottom of the search box. Users can click the link and fill out a form detailing issues with search predictions. Predictions can be reported as hateful, sexually explicit, violent or including dangerous and harmful activity, plus a catch-all “Other” category. Comments are allowed.

Google has also adjusted its ranking signals and updated its Search Quality Rater guidelines so its evaluators, who assess the quality of Google’s Search results.

Lastly, Project Owl signals a move by Google to provide more transparency about its products. They have published their new policies to their Help Center webpage and have provided a How Search Works site to provide more information about the technology behind their search function.

For more information on Project Owl, you will want to check out Search Engine Land’s posting on the subject: