Google Adds New Tool Designed To Flag ‘Upsetting’ And ‘Offensive’ Search Results

Hannah Bleau

Why am I not surprised?

According to this, Google has added a new tool designed to “improve the quality of its search results.” How is it doing this, exactly? By “directing review teams to flag content that might come across as upsetting or offensive,” of course!

Basically, review teams will be able to mark questionable content with the label “upsetting-offensive.” They argue that this won’t change the search results, but it will, because what they deem “better content” will rank higher.

While flagging something doesn’t directly affect the search results themselves, it’s used to tweak the company’s software so that better content ranks higher. This approach might, for instance, push down content that is inaccurate or has other questionable attributes, thereby giving prominence to trustworthy sources.

In other words, this is a crackdown on FAKE NEWS!

The review teams — comprised of contractors known as “quality raters” — already comb through websites and other content to flag questionable items such as pornography. Google added “upsetting-offensive” in its latest guidelines for quality raters. Google declined to comment on the changes, which were reported in the blog Search Engine Land and elsewhere.

Pornography? Cool. We can all get on board with flagging that garbage. But why do I get the feeling they’re going to target conservative websites with content they find “hateful”? I mean, if you do something as simple as say, “I support President Trump’s travel order,” you’re automatically a hateful, Islamophobic bigot.

The guidelines, which run 160 pages, are an interesting look into how Google ranks the quality of its search results. For instance, it gives examples of “high-quality” pages, such as the home page of a newspaper that has “won seven Pulitzer Prize awards,” and “low-quality” pages, such as an article that includes “many grammar and punctuation errors.”

If “upsetting-offensive” is the new guideline, conservative websites– or ANY websites that report the truth– are doomed. Snowflakes find everything upsetting and offensive.

The new “upsetting-offensive” flag instructs quality raters to “flag to all web results that contain upsetting or offensive content from the perspective of users in your locale, even if the result satisfies the user intent.” So even if the results are what the person searched for, such as white supremacist websites, they could still get flagged. But it doesn’t mean the results won’t show up at all when someone searches for them.

Keep all of this in mind as you do your searching. While Google may have good intentions, I can’t help but remain skeptical.