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Google’s Project Owl to Tackle Unverifiable Content and Fake News

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Google’s Project Owl to Tackle Unverifiable Content and Fake News

Google is aware of the fake news problem, and as such, they are initiating Project Owl to improve featured snippets, improve autocomplete, and verify authority content.

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While Google follows 200+ signals to rank search engine results, problems with fake news and problematic content showing up on top results are causing issues with user engagement. Google has been aware of the problem with search quality since November 2016, and as such, they have initiated Project Owl to address the issues through three ways.

First, there will be a feedback form where users can answer questions about featured snippets. Second, there will be a renewed emphasis on sorting and displaying authoritative content in the top results. Third, their policies on suggestions based results could be revised to include a feedback form for receiving search suggestions.

Understanding Problematic Searches

Problematic searches is a term that Google is using to identify perceptions and concepts without any meaning. Content that feeds a certain perception without any basis in the factual world such as urban myths, rumors, or any derogatory issue that influences the collective mentality is a cause of concern.

In the past, Google has dealt with search spam, poor-quality content, and piracy, but none of these come under the category of problematic searches. Rather, they are about generating and propagating fake news that creates a biased perception.

Previously, Google was aware of the problem, but it did not merit any priority until this happened.


As mentioned, Project Owl proposes three solutions. A brief description of each is given below.

1. Improvement in Featured Snippets

Featured snippets is a functional tool that gives the user an informational gist before the search results display. They are visible with Google Assistant and in Google Home to generate a quicker answer to the user’s query. In the last few months, Google noticed that the answers in the featured snippet section were increasingly becoming problematic. Google is combating this issue with a feedback form for the user to indicate if the featured section content is offensive, vulgar, or helpful. An example form is shown below.


The feedback will find use in improving the algorithm changes. Users with Google Home can use the device to send feedback directly. Each feedback submitted will undergo strong consideration and possible implementation.

2. Improvement in Autocomplete

Autocomplete saves time. Originally designed to speed up user search, users are bombarded with unsavory beliefs and perceptions when searching for problematic topics. These autocompleted suggestions can deviate the user from the original search intent, shockingly. A case study by Guardian made Google realize the complexity of the problem, prompting the company to find solutions.

Like the featured snippet, there is a form for report inappropriate predictions, prompting users to report problematic autocomplete suggestions such as hateful, racial, sexist, and provocative content. Google made changes to their publication policies to mention the non-legal reasons of removing suggestions such as pirated content, personal information, and court-ordered removals.

It is early to understand whether this step will work; however, the Google team assures that each feedback will undergo thoughtful consideration.

3. Authority Content

There will be an increased focus to identify authority content and give them higher search engine placement on results. Few changes were initiated since December 2016, and lately, their team has begun to flag content that is offensive or upsetting.

It is a wishful thought to expect changes to happen and reflect overnight. The giant search engine contains trillions of pages, and correcting even half of those results will take months and years. Hence, as users, we should come forward and help Google with Project Owl through our feedback and suggestions.

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big data ,search engine ,google ,fake news

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