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TODD SMITH — Google launches new effort to flag offensive content

Google is undertaking a new effort to better identify content that is potentially upsetting or offensive to searchers.

It hopes this will prevent such content from crowding out factual, accurate and trustworthy information in the top search results.

“We’re explicitly avoiding the term ‘fake news,’ because we think it is too vague,” said Paul Haahr, one of Google’s senior engineers who is involved with search quality said to Search Engine Land. “Demonstrably inaccurate information, however, we want to target.”

New Role For Google’s Army Of ‘Quality Raters’

The effort revolves around Google’s quality raters, over 10,000 contractors that Google uses worldwide to evaluate search results. These raters are given actual searches to conduct, drawn from real searches that Google sees. They then rate pages that appear in the top results as to how good those seem as answers.

Quality raters do not have the power to alter Google’s results directly. A rater marking a particular result as low quality will not cause that page to plunge in rankings. Instead, the data produced by quality raters is used to improve Google’s search algorithms generally. In time, that data might have an impact on low-quality pages that are spotted by raters, as well as on others that weren’t reviewed.

Quality raters use a set of guidelines that are nearly 200 pages long, instructing them on how to assess website quality and whether the results they review meet the needs of those who might search for particular queries.

The New ‘Upsetting-Offensive’ Content Flag

Those guidelines have been updated with an entirely new section about “Upsetting-Offensive” content that covers a new flag that’s been added for raters to use. Until now, pages could not be flagged by raters with this designation.

The guidelines say that upsetting or offensive content typically includes the following things from the guide:

» Content that promotes hate or violence against a group of people based on criteria including (but not limited to) race or ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality or citizenship, disability, age, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

» Content with racial slurs or extremely offensive terminology.

» Graphic violence, including animal cruelty or child abuse.

» Explicit how- to information about harmful activities (i.e., how tos on human trafficking or violent assault).

» Other types of content which users in your locale would find extremely upsetting or offensive.

Being Flagged Is Not An Immediate Demotion or A Ban

What happens if content is flagged this way? Nothing immediate. The results that quality raters flag is used as “training data” for Google’s human coders who write search algorithms, as well as for its machine learning systems. Basically, content of this nature is used to help Google figure out how to automatically identify upsetting or offensive content in general.

In other words, being flagged as “Upsetting-Offensive” by a quality rater does not actually mean that a page or site will be identified this way in Google’s actual search engine. Instead, it’s data that Google uses so that its search algorithms can automatically spot pages generally that should be flagged.

If the algorithms themselves actually flag content, then that content is less likely to appear for searches where the intent is deemed to be about general learning. For example, someone searching for Holocaust information is less likely to run into Holocaust denial sites, if things go as Google intends.

Being flagged as Upsetting-Offensive does not mean such content won’t appear at all in Google. In cases where Google determines there’s an explicit desire to reach such content, it will still be delivered.

Those Explicitly Seeking Offensive Content Will Get Factual Information

What about searches where people might already have made their minds up about particular situations? For example, if someone who already doubts the Holocaust happened does a search on that topic, should that be viewed as an explicit search for material that supports it, even if that material is deemed upsetting or offensive?

The guidelines address this. It acknowledges that people may search for possibly upsetting or offensive topics. It takes the view that in all cases, the assumption should be toward returning trustworthy, factually accurate and credible information.

Chipotle Back on Top as America’s Favorite Mexican Chain

Chipotle is once again America’s favorite Mexican restaurant chain, according to a new study.

It seems the burrito chain is finally making a comeback following an E. coli outbreak that sent its sales plunging for more than a year, according to the study by Market Force Information.

Prior to the outbreak, Chipotle topped the list of Americans’ favorite Mexican chains.

But it lost that spot to little-known Tex-Mex chain Taco Bueno last year.

This year, Chipotle’s back on top.

“After a rough couple of years that included an  E. coli outbreak and a hit to its stock price, Denver-based Chipotle once again leads the Mexican food category, a position it shared with Qdoba in the 2015 study before landing second behind lesser-known Taco Bueno in 2016,” Market Force said in a statement. “Moe’s Southwest Grill took second place this year, while El Pollo Loco ranked third, Qdoba fourth and Taco Cabana fifth.”

The study also found that Chipotle’s efforts to improve its customer service has been paying off.

The chain took first place for food quality, cleanliness, and curb appeal, and tied for first with Qdoba and Moe’s for service speed.

Rockin’ Mic | Chuck Berry Helped Define the Genre?

Chuck Berry, who died last week at age 90, helped define rock ‘n’ roll with indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties.

While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Mr. Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they knew themselves. With songs like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” he gave his listeners much more than they bargained for when they dropped their coins in the jukebox!

By the 1980s, Mr. Berry was recognized as a rock pioneer. He never won a Grammy Award in his prime, but the Recording Academy gave him a lifetime achievement award in 1984. And, he was in the first group of musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

For his indelible mark as a music icon, Berry takes a Rockin’ Mic – and somewhere just beyond the pearly gates, Beethoven is indeed rolling over.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon. 


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One comment

  1. I’m shocked that google is censoring search results. The future is alternative search engines. We all need to us another search engine and than we take away the governments power, or we just go back to yelling loud try Lookseek com search or one of the other alternative searches.

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