Google unrolls search features to tackle misinformation

Will provide tips on spotting bad info, frontload highly cited sources


Further embracing its unspoken role as arbiter of truth, Google has unrolled some new search result features to help users "sort out what information is credible and what isn't."

In particular, the search giant is introducing two new attributes: Information literacy tips for breaking topics, and a new Highly Cited label for news stories that have been widely used as sources for other news stories. 

In addition to those new search features, Google also shared the expansion of its About This Result feature, which gives users information about the site hosting the result, other opinions on the topic from different sites, and additional context.

About This Result was first launched in early 2021 and initially restricted to US English search results only. Google said today that it plans for the feature to "be available soon for all English-language searches worldwide."

Frontloading trusted sources

A lot of national and global news starts life at the local level, but news brands with a large reach can easily drown out the original report, which Google has said it wants to elevate in order to bring people unique perspectives. 

Launching "soon" in the US (English only) and globally "in the coming weeks," the new feature adds a small "Highly Cited" label to stories showing up in the top stories area of Google search results.

"You will be able to find it on anything from an investigative article, to an interview, an announcement, a press release or a local news story, as long as other publishers indicate its relevance by linking to it," said Google Project Manager for Misinformation and Media Literacy, Nidhi Hebbar.

It's worth remembering that a high degree of citation doesn't mean a story is true, nor does it mean the oft-cited piece is the original news item. Aiding in that fight is the second new search feature Google announced: Information literacy tips. 

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Starting today, Hebbar said that the page displayed when a search topic is still rapidly evolving "these notices will also include tips to help you evaluate information online – reminding you that you can check whether a source is trusted on a topic, or come back later when there's more information available."

Things like determining whether a source is trustworthy and how to get good additional opinions are included along with a link to Google's page on how to evaluate search results.

Google's YouTube last year made a push to remove anti-vaccine videos from its service and blocked certain channels operated by several widely viewed anti-vaccine advocates. Both the video platform and sister firm Google have been widely criticised over the years for the inscrutability of their algorithms, with the search giant facing plenty of regulatory scrutiny all over the world probing its dominance in search. ®

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