For the last few weeks, certain corners of the internet have been abuzz over the idea that Google’s algorithms may begin to take the factualness of web pages into consideration. This metric is called the Knowledge-Based Trust score. For the moment, Google is merely doing research on this possibility, but my personal view is that it’s only a matter of time before this happens.
What Google Knows
I sometimes joke that Google, with its ubiquitous presence on our computers, tablets, and mobile phones, knows everything. But that may, in fact, be true. Google maintains a database of facts—the Knowledge Vault— that it uses to evaluate the content of websites.
Many hope that if Google implements fact-based evaluation of websites, it will slow the spread of potentially dangerous misinformation, such as we’ve seen with vaccines, for instance..
Knowledge Graph and Health
Even if Google doesn’t work the Knowledge-Based Trust score into its algorithms, it has already begun curating what we see in search results with the Knowledge Graph.
Google’s Knowledge Graph was introduced in 2012 as a way to help searchers find information more quickly. Often, the Knowledge Graph provides suggestions to help searchers refine their queries. For certain health-related queries, however, the information presented in the Knowledge Graph display will now be curated—that is, reviewed by a committee of physicians from Google and the Mayo Clinic.
A Matter of Trust
To me, one of the unspoken but important truths that emerges from this is that, like it or not, we already place quite a bit of trust in Google. When it comes to health information, however, maybe it’s best if we stop relying on what is essentially a popularity contest–that seems to be the principle behind Google’s decision to curate health-related search results.