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Google Showing “Reliable Sources” Prompt on Trending Searches via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google is testing a new prompt on trending searches that do not have enough reliable sources. The new prompt may be meant to help make users more discerning about the information they are seeing.

According to Google, these changes are rolling out in the United States in English first.

Google’s announcement noted:

“…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.

To help with this, 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.”

New Prompt Spotted on Twitter

The person on Twitter noted the new prompt:

“First time I’ve seen this response from Google Search. Positive step to communicating that something is newsy/breaking (my search was for a breaking culture war story), and highlighting that facts are not all known or consensus on what happened is still being formed.”

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New Notice Meant to Counter Disinformation?

The new notice is about evolving topics. These are trending news articles or topics that do not yet have enough authoritative sources.

This might have something to do with recent research by Google and MIT that discovered that a simple prompt can cause users to snap out of their attention stream and become more critical about the information they are receiving.

More on this research below.

Results Changing Quickly Notice

Someone tweeted that they were seeing a new prompt from Google about evolving topics.

The new notice reads:

It looks like these results are changing quickly
If this topic is new, it can sometimes take time for results to be added by reliable sources

Screenshot of Google evolving topic notice

Screenshot of Google evolving topic notice

The above evolving topic notice was given in response to a search for “black triangle ufo ocean.”

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It is an evolving story based on a report by a single news organization that the Pentagon has video evidence of a type of triangular UFO known as a black triangle UFO.

Screenshot of Google Images Displaying News Photo

Screenshot of Google Images

Screenshot of Google Images

Google is thus showing this evolving topic notice because there may not be enough reliable sources on this trending search query to verify the accuracy or truthfulness of it.

In a news report on Vox, Google’s Danny Sullivan is quoted as saying,

“…we get a lot of things that are entirely new …people are probably searching for it… we can tell it’s starting to trend. And we can also tell that there’s not a lot of necessarily great stuff that’s out there.”

Research on Shifting Readers Attention

There is new research that might or might not be directly connected to this new prompt.

It does however provide insights into the benefits of showing a prompt to users when there are no reliable sources.

The recent study by researchers associated with Google/Alphabet and MIT discovered that simple prompts can help users become more critical about the information they are seeing and subsequently share.

There is no explicit statement from Google that this study influenced the new Google prompt.

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However the the research and the prompt have undeniable similarities to each other in terms of helping users be aware that a topic may not have reliable sources.

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The new research was published in May 2021. The researchers from Google (actually an Alphabet company called Jigsaw) and MIT discovered that shifting user’s attention could help them become more critical about the information they were seeing.

“Recent research suggests that shifting users’ attention to accuracy increases the quality of news they subsequently share online.

…we identify a variety of different accuracy prompts that successful increase sharing discernment across a wide range of demographic subgroups while maintaining user autonomy.”

One of the researchers from Jigsaw, Rocky Cole, has this description in their LinkedIn profile:

“I’m currently focused on countering disinformation and harmful speech on the internet.”

This new prompt may be a new approach by Google to help users become more critical about trending information and to help stop the spread of misinformation.

Citations

Google’s Official Announcement
A New Notice in Search for Rapidly Evolving Results

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Vox recode article
Google is Starting to Warn Users When it Doesn’t Have a Reliable Answer

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Fast Company Explainer Article About Google/MIT Research

Research
Developing an Accuracy-prompt Toolkit to Reduce COVID-19 Misinformation Online

PDF Version of Research Report
Developing an Accuracy-prompt Toolkit to Reduce COVID-19 Misinformation Online (PDF)

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NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

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