Preventing the spread of false facts and inaccurate information on the Internet might appear to be a good idea, in theory, but if Google is intending only to show search results that they consider truthful, this could be bad news in practice.
The majority of people searching for information on the Internet trust Google to show them the most appropriate and relevant sites.
By entering a phrase or a few keywords into a search box, and then clicking it, Google searches for the most relevant content relating to those words and return pages of results matching the criteria of your search. In performing this apparently simple task, Google ranks the results according to a complex algorithm that gives priority to pages containing content with a value that is largely determined by the popularity of a site.
It seems that Google is looking to bring to the next level with the introduction of “Truthfulness” into the mix.
Popularity and Credibility Factors
The present method for evaluating a page of content is partly based on the quantity of incoming links to a page of content or to the website as a whole. These links are assessed by Google bots for quality.
- Spam links are ignored by Google and a penalty will be imposed on any site that is linked from hundreds of sites that have no real content.
- When a website has a large number links leading to it from trustworthy sources, it is considered more trustworthy.
For example, when content is linked from an article at Fox News or is named as a source by CNN, it’s perceived as being of more value than if it’s linked back from sites that are designed only for link sharing.
A New Algorithm for Truthfulness
It has been alleged that Google is working on a new algorithm which will change how websites are ranked in its search engine’s result pages. This means:
- A new truthfulness factor could become part of the algorithm that decides the ranking of website content.
- Google would decide on ‘the truth’ of website content and use that decision as a factor for page ranking in search results.
The obvious conclusion is that any website with content that does not match up to what Google considers to be the truth would end up in the vaults at Google and never appear in search results.
Google’s Version of ‘The Truth’
The truthfulness of a website is expected to be determined by comparison between information on a website and data stored in the Google Knowledge Vault. Content on sites that set out to expose lies and misinformation will also be taken into account.
- Google created its own database by collating information automatically, after it has been gathered from sites across the Internet.
- According to Wikipedia, by 2014 there were 1.6 billion ‘facts’ stored in The Knowledge Vault.
Different Versions of ‘The Truth’
If you were to ask five different people to name the best football team, you could get a different answer from each of them. By giving you different versions of the truth, what you accept as the true version is up to you.
Sites That Could Be Affected
Millions of pages of content have been set up in an attempt to help people understand what should be considered to be the truth. Sites that could be affected are those featuring content relating to:
- Alternative news
- Anti-government views
- Conspiracy theories
- Free thinking
- Political issues
If Google goes ahead with changing its criteria for ranking in search results, based on its own version of the truth, it could effectively crush sites that question mainstream views or provide an alternative outlook.