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Google has announced that it is testing a new feature which will notify users when they search for a topic that may have unreliable results.
In the era of misinformation, the world’s most popular search engine is stepping up to provide its users with more context about breaking news, especially for actively developing stories.
Upon searching for a topic that has results changing quickly, a user will receive a prompt reading in part, “If this topic is new, it can sometimes take time for results to be added by reliable sources.”
Google told Recode that it rolled out this new feature a week ago, with the message currently showing up only in a small percentage of searches.
For example, the new prompt appeared on searches about an alleged UFO sighting in the UK after it garnered some press coverage.
“People are probably searching for it, they may be going around on social media – so we can tell it’s starting to trend. And we can also tell there’s not a lot of necessarily great stuff that’s out there. And we also think that maybe next stuff will come along,” Danny Sullivan, public liaison for Google Search, explained to Recode.
The new feature joins a slew of changes the search engine has made in recent months in order to help improve “search literacy.”
In February this year, Google added an ‘About’ button next to most search results, which shows a brief Wikipedia description of the topic when available, allowing users to have more information about the topic at hand.
Evelyn Douek, a researcher at Harvard University who studies online speech, told Recode that such methods are “a great way of making people pause before they act on or spread information further.”
“It doesn’t involve anyone making judgments about the truth or falsity of any story but just gives the readers more context,” she said.
This new prompt will be rolling out in the US to start, with Google planning to expand it to other countries over the coming months.