|Google Has Picked an Answer for You—Too Bad It’s Often Wrong|
Google became the world’s go-to source of information by ranking billions of links from millions of sources. Now, for many queries, the internet giant is presenting itself as the authority on truth by promoting a single search result as the answer.
To the question “Does money buy happiness?” Google recently highlighted a result that stated: “There is enough scientific research to prove” it.
“Who are the worst CEOs of all time?” Google answered with the names and photos of 11 chief executives, including Gordon Bethune of Continental Airlines and Robert Nardelli of Home Depot Inc.
Sometimes, Google’s response depends on how the question is asked. For “Should abortion be legal?” Google cited a South African news site saying, “It is not the place of government to legislate against woman’s choices.”
When asked, “Should abortion be illegal?” it promoted an answer from obscure clickbait site listland.com stating, “Abortion is murder.”
The promoted answers, called featured snippets, are outlined in boxes above other results and presented in larger type, often with images. Google’s voice assistant sometimes reads them aloud. They give Google’s secret algorithms even greater power to shape public opinion, given that surveys show people consider search engines their most-trusted source of information, over traditional media or social media.
Google’s featured answers are feeding a raging global debate about the ability of Silicon Valley companies to influence society. Google and other internet giants are under intensifying scrutiny over the power of their products and their vulnerability to bias or manipulation.
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