The latest updates that Google has made to the guidelines it issues to Search Quality Evaluators has been changed to emphasise diversity of opinion, in a move that has been interpreted as a reaction to claims of bias by the search engine giant.
When assessing the quality of the search results that Google returns, evaluators are now reminded that searchers across the world have a variety of views and opinions which should not be taken into account when determining the effectiveness of the search engine’s results. Rather, evaluators should judge the relevance of the results and their quality as sources of information alone. This means that evaluators should not rate the content of a search result poorly just because it doesn’t align with their own personal views, particularly as these views may be common among certain demographics or in certain areas of the world that Google also aims to represent.
Google’s Search Quality Evaluators are a group of more than 10,000 people across the world whose job it is to run a human check on the usefulness of the results that Google searches turn up. While they cannot directly influence the results that appear, or block content that Google searches return, their feedback on the random searches they are sent is used to influence and tweak which information Google’s algorithms trawl for results. As a result, fears have emerged that Search Quality Evaluators may be influenced by their personal biases against content that is considered objectionable in Western cultures but may be mainstream in other parts of the world. The updated guidelines remind evaluators that they should be judging searches on the accuracy of the results rather than the results’ content, and reinforce this by re-naming ‘users’ as ‘people’ in order to remind evaluators that its users represent people of all ages, creeds and nationalities.
Following high-profile questions around potential biases within Google, particularly claims that it hides content from right-wing sources or content critical of the Chinese government, this move is being seen as an attempt by Google to reform its image. This is just the latest in a series of moves that Google has taken to reform the way it judges the value of a page’s content, and therefore where it appears in search results, amid criticism. In May, Google aimed changes at advertisers who use confusing mechanics to disrupt web pages in ways that make users more likely to click on their content.