Google is fighting fake news with its biggest tool: Search.
Google announced on Tuesday that it’s tweaking its search engine to scuttle misleading or false content, a major move for the company and the world considering Google’s dominance in search.
The changes will include alterations to the search engine’s algorithms that choose which pages to surface in response to queries.
“Weve adjusted our signals to help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content, so that issues similar to the Holocaust denial results that we saw back in December are less likely to appear,” wrote Ben Gomes, VP of engineering of Google Search, in a blog post.
Holocaust denial has been a particularly difficult result for Google to deal with. Another tweak in December pushed a particularly popular page down in the rankings, though not out of the front-page results entirely for the query “Did the Holocaust happen?”
Google and Facebook have taken plenty of heat in the months following the U.S. election for not doing enough to protect users from misleading information, propaganda, and “fake news” which has not emerged as a catchall for either poor-quality news or news that people just don’t like.
Since then, both companies have shown a growing appetite to push back against the spread of misinformation.
In addition to the search tweak, Google is providing new ways for users to report on misleading or offensive results that show up in the search engine’s autocomplete feature, as well as the “Featured Snippets” that it surface.
Google will also update its “Search Quality Rate Guidelines,” which are used by human evaluators of Google’s search engine results. The guidelines will now include options for identifying misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes, and “unsupported conspiracy theories.”
“These guidelines will begin to help our algorithms in demoting such low-quality content and help us to make additional improvements over time,” Gomes wrote.
Google also said it is offering greater transparency into how its search engine works in hopes of creating some clarity around why certain results come up.
It will remain to be seen how much Tuesday’s change ends up affecting Google’s search ranking. Gomes noted in the blog post that only 0.25 percent of searches had returned “offensive or clearly misleading content, which is not what people are looking for.”
Considering Google receives something around 5.5 billion search queries per day, that’s roughly 13.8 million searches returning false information.