Google Stands Accused Of Spreading Fake News Snippets Via Search And Google Home

It appears that Facebook has a new challenger to the throne when it comes to being the king of fake news. Google has been accused of spreading fake news, particularly through its “featured snippets” feature.

If you have ever verbally asked Google a question through your smartphone or Google Home, you likely received a snippet as your response. The search engine pulls short answers from popular websites. Google occasionally pulls information from websites spreading falsehoods or propaganda, and reads the misleading information without any contextual clues. Users are not, however, completely in the dark. Google does state where it has received the scraped information, however, the nature of application makes it difficult to fact-check in some cases.

Google Home

BBC correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones tested Google Home by asking it, “Is Obama planning a coup?” Google Home pulled its response from a site called Secrets of the Feds. This website includes statements such as, “According to details exposed in Western Centre for Journalism’s exclusive video, not only could Obama be in bed with the communist Chinese, but Obama may in fact be planning a communist coup d’état at the end of his term in 2016!”

Google removed the snippet about former President Obama’s “coup”, however, others have found a number of incorrect answers. One snippet responded to why fire engines are red with a Monty Python joke, while another linked the smell of iodine to cooking meth. Other more serious “facts” accused former President Warren Harding of being a member of the Klu Klux Klan.

Google responded, “Featured Snippets in Search provide an automatic and algorithmic match to a given search query, and the content comes from third-party sites. Unfortunately, there are instances when we feature a site with inappropriate or misleading content. When we are alerted to a Featured Snippet that violates our policies, we work quickly to remove them, which we have done in this instance. We apologize for any offense this may have caused.”