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17 February

What Does Google’s ‘Project Owl’ Mean for Search and Fake News?

Project Owl is a new endeavor that Google has recently launched, aimed at stamping out fake news and hate speech from showing in your search results. This new campaign plans to combat the spread of fake news through new feedback forms for search suggestions. This effort is primarily supported through user feedback, as well as new changes to search capabilities.

While we don’t see this new project affecting marketers or SEO strategy, it is important that your business continues to practice white hat methods. This new effort to stop the spread of fake news can affect searchers’ user experience. We’re taking a look at some of the challenges marketers may face in the wake of Project Owl.

Challenge #1: Search Engines Should Remain Neutral

With the launch of Project Owl, Google is now walking on a tight rope. If major search engines are able to tackle fake news effectively, they run the risk of appearing bias to certain news/media sources. By introducing new feedback boxes, users opinion will completely change the search experience for every user asking that question. It will be particularly difficult to differentiate what’s ‘right’ for different users.

Challenge #2: The Proposed Plan

The main change we’ll see with the launch of Project Owl is to the autocomplete feature that has become synonymous with a Google search. This refers to when a user begins a search query and Google suggests topics to search on. As these suggestions come from real user searches, there can often be distasteful suggestions that relate to the original search topic.

Project Owl looks to address this issue by including a new feature that will allow you to report something you find inappropriate. This new feature will appear at the bottom of your search box. If you wish to report fake news or hate speech, users can simply click the link. This will then bring up a form for you to fill out, giving you the opportunity to discuss your issues with any search predictions. These new forms will come with specific categories, so you can flag content that you find dangerous, hateful, offensive, unhelpful, racist, misleading, vulgar, inaccurate or more. Users can also provide feedback on featured snippets with this update.

Challenge #3: Search Quality Rater Changes

With Project Owl, Google has made a number of changes to its ranking signals. It has also updated its Search Quality Rater guidelines. This means the people who evaluate and assess the quality of your Google search results have access to better standards.  Evaluators will be able to make better judgements regarding when to flag webpages or remove search predictions.

The launch of Project Owl signals a definitive move by Google to create a far more transparent environment. If you’re unsure about how these new polices may affect you as a user, make sure to check out their Help Center webpage. In the Help Center, users can access a handy site on How Searches Work. This site will provide more information on the technology behind this new search function.


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