Google is making some major changes to how its search engine operates as the US prepares for the election in November.
Tech companies have come under fire from both sides of the aisle for alternately doing too much and not enough to combat misinformation, false claims and divisive content. Facebook famously got in major trouble over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, resulting in multiple fines and ongoing scrutiny.
It appears Google is already taking measures to avoid any scenarios that could put it in the hot seat, by changing how its Autocomplete algorithm works in the weeks leading to the election.
“We expanded our Autocomplete policies related to elections, and we will remove predictions that could be interpreted as claims for or against any candidate or political party,” writes Pandu Nayak Google Fellow and Vice President, Search. “We will also remove predictions that could be interpreted as a claim about participation in the election—like statements about voting methods, requirements, or the status of voting locations—or the integrity or legitimacy of electoral processes, such as the security of the election. What this means in practice is that predictions like ‘you can vote by phone’ as well as ‘you can’t vote by phone,’ or a prediction that says ‘donate to’ any party or candidate, should not appear in Autocomplete. Whether or not a prediction appears, you can still search for whatever you’d like and find results.”
The new feature builds on the company’s policy of excluding hateful and inappropriate results from displaying in Autocomplete. It remains to be seen if these measures will have a noticeable impact.