A Google engineer tells The Guardian changes have been made to the search algorithm in response to real-life crises.
Pandu Nayak, a senior search engineer at Google, says Google’s algorithm can now recognize when a bad event is taking place.
While the said event is taking place, Google will increase the weight of ‘authority’ signals in an effort to surface the most accurate information about the crisis.
Nayak cites the rise in school shootings in the US as a reason for the algorithm update, noting that a lot of misinformation can arise during tragic, real-life events.
When Nayak says Google increases the weight of authority signals he’s referring to authority as defined in the search quality evaluator guidelines.
Google aims to reduce the spread of misinformation, as opposed to outright removing it from search results.
Nayak explains that pruning individual pages does nothing to solve the misinformation problem:
“… what we really want to do is to go down and understand why this problem occurred in the first place. Like, what was that in our algorithms that caused this problem to occur? And you get to the heart of the problem, you fix that, and now, even if you don’t solve the whole iceberg, you solve a large part of the iceberg.”
Going forward, when searching for information about a crisis that’s unfolding, Google will serve results from the most authoritative sources as determined by its quality raters.
If a deadly hurricane was approaching, Google would return authoritative breaking news articles for searches related to hurricanes, as opposed to informational, evergreen articles.
Afterward, when the crisis has subsided, Google’s search algorithm would return to normal. At least that’s how I understand it.