In an attempt to improve the quality of its search results, Google is enlisting teams of ‘quality raters’ to physically recreate and evaluate search results. More than ten thousand raters will then evaluate the search results and decide whether or not a page contains upsetting or offensive content.

New Guidelines:

In order to give users more transparency, Google has also updated its Search Quality Rating Guidelines to specify it considers distressing, which includes:

  • Content that promotes hate or violence against any racial, ethnic, religious, gender, nationality, disabled, or sexually oriented group.
  • Content depicting graphic violence, including abuse towards animals or children.
  • Instructions on performing illegal or harmful activities, like robbing a bank or building a bomb.
  • Hate speech, racial slurs, or locally upsetting material.

Examples of Content which might be Flagged:

google, search quality, upsetting, offensive, flag, guidelines, search engine, domains, webhosting

(Image Credit: Search Engine Land)

 google, search quality, upsetting, offensive, flag, guidelines, search engine, domains, webhosting

(Image Credit: Search Engine Land)

Consequences for Companies:

A rater marking a particular listing as low quality will not cause that page to be immediately banned or lose ranking. Although these quality rating cannot change the search results directly, they will be used to improve Google’s algorithms so deliver better content. This will eventually push down inaccurate or offensive pages further down Google’s rankings, to allow high quality pages to dominate the top ranks.

Subjectivity and Personal Bias

Despite its attempts to provide a more diverse and safe learning environment on the web, Google’s policy isn’t necessarily without flaws: it may unintentionally favour well-established and popular websites over newer and relatively unknown websites.

Generally speaking this may seem reasonable because bigger companies tend to have more resources, leading to more polished content. However, this also puts more mainstream sites in an advantageous position, leaving users with a smaller pool of information to draw from. By definition, this can threaten the fundamentally democratic nature of the Internet. One could also go to the extent of claiming that it could have a negative impact on the well-being of the overall media sphere.

Many remain skeptical of the strategic manner in which Google is handling the situation, condemning the use of human reviewers to lead the charge. Their concern lies within the bias of each reviewer, which may result in that same bias making its way into Google’s algorithms in the future.

It cannot be denied that the Internet giant has certainly been making large strides in the right direction. Furthermore, it is no easy task to accurately flag every piece of content on the Internet, even for Google. We only hope that in the near future we will see minor modifications, ones that promote learning and improve guidelines, which are free of bias and promote equal opportunity.


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