The technology giant Google has started warning users when they search for a topic that is likely to have poor results, as part of its effort to tackle “data voids” on the search engine.
Some Google searches will now bring up a warning that “it looks like these results are changing quickly,” and a subheading will explain that “if this topic is new, it can sometimes take time for results to be added by reliable sources.” In a blog post, the technology giant suggests that users might want to check back later when it’s found more results.
The notice is initially appearing on US-based English-language results “when a topic is rapidly evolving and a range of sources hasn’t yet weighed in.” Google will expand the tool’s presence to other markets in the coming months.
Social media is regularly linked with misinformation, researchers have long cautioned that search engines can be powerful tools for spreading falsehoods.
“While Google Search will always be there with the most useful results we can provide, sometimes the reliable information you’re searching for just isn’t online yet. This can be particularly true for breaking news or emerging topics, when the information that’s published first may not be the most reliable,” Google said.
“We’ve trained our systems to detect when a topic is rapidly evolving and a range of sources hasn’t yet weighed in. We’ll now show a notice indicating that it may be best to check back later when more information from a wider range of sources might be available,” Danny Sullivan, public liaison for search at Google, explained in a blog post.
This warning won’t necessarily stop bad content from surfacing, and it’s not clear exactly how Google determines a sufficient range of sources. But it could remove some of the false legitimacy that high Google placement can confer on early, unreliable search results.