Google's search algorithms came under renewed fire on Sunday after the BBC highlighted examples in which the company's Google Home smart speaker promotes "fake news" and conspiracy theories through its virtual assistant.

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones tweeted a video yesterday that appears to show the smart device responding to the question "Is Obama planning a coup?" with the reply: "Obama may in fact be planning a Communist coup d'etat at the end of his term in 2016."

google home product shot
In another example, Search Editor Land editor Danny Sullivan asked his Google Home "Are Republicans fascists?", to which it replied: "Yes. Republicans equals Nazis."

As pointed out by Business Insider, the fault lies in Google's Featured Snippets feature, which corrals data from the web to provide the user with a supposedly definitive answer to a query typed into the Google search bar.

A version of the feature powers Google Assistant, the company's voice-activated virtual assistant, which is built into the Google Home smart speaker and some smartphones. The algorithms Google uses to verify online sources of information appear to be at fault, but the issue is arguably worse on smart devices because the answers they provide are plucked from the web without context since users are not actively viewing the source.

A Google spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement that "Featured Snippets in Search provide an automatic and algorithmic match to a given search query, and the content comes from third-party sites. Unfortunately, there are instances when we feature a site with inappropriate or misleading content. When we are alerted to a Featured Snippet that violates our policies, we work quickly to remove them, which we have done in this instance. We apologise for any offense this may have caused."

Google has come in for criticism before for its predictive search results, but the problem of "fake news" in particular was identified during last year's U.S. Presidential election, and led companies like Facebook to make statements about the action they have taken to bring the quality of articles to users' attention.

Apple is also said to be working on ways to ensure its content delivery services can identify and prevent conspiracy theories being peddled as legitimate news, according to Apple's senior vice president of software and services, Eddy Cue. "We're trying to do some things in Apple News, we're learning from that and we need to share that together as an industry and improve it," he said last month.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called fake news "one of today's chief problems" and that "we have to give the consumer tools" to deal with the challenge.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

newyorksole Avatar
55 months ago
Tired of hearing the terms "Fake News" and "Alternative Facts"...

What happened to the simple words "Lie", "Misinformation" and "Unfounded".
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thisisnotmyname Avatar
55 months ago
If you're stupid enough to ask those questions to begin with (in a serious manner) you probably deserve those answers. Maybe Google just has a very dry sarcastic wit.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Markoth Avatar
55 months ago
Looks like it gets the republican part correct, at least
Pretty divisive there!
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TonyC28 Avatar
55 months ago
Speaking of fake news, the Google speaker didn't just reply "yes, ....", it first cited the source. At least it gives the person asking the question a chance to understand the source. As far as journalism goes, I would say that the way this article quotes the responses is incorrect.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
IbisDoc Avatar
55 months ago
Looks like it gets the republican part correct, at least
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Markoth Avatar
55 months ago
So you think Obama was plotting a coup and that the information was accurate because a source was cited? A source based upon the popularity of the question and not on the proof or validity of the accusation?
Modern politics are founded on the popularity of unfounded opinions.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

tile sticker e1570533758981

Tile CEO: 'We Welcome Competition From Apple, But We Think It Needs to Be Fair'

Tuesday May 4, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Just after Apple announced its AirTags, Tile CEO CJ Prober relayed his concerns about competing with Apple in the tracking space, and said that Tile would ask Congress to investigate Apple's business practices specific to Find My and item trackers. Prober this week did an interview with Bloomberg, where he further expanded on Tile's complaints about Apple and why he feels that Tile is...
apple watch ecg

Apple Watch Likely to Gain Blood Pressure, Blood Glucose, and Blood Alcohol Monitoring

Monday May 3, 2021 4:03 am PDT by
The Apple Watch may gain the ability to measure blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood alcohol levels, according to newly-revealed information about one of Apple's chosen business partners. Apple has been revealed to be the largest customer of the British electronics start-up Rockley Photonics, The Telegraph reports. Rockley Photonics has developed non-invasive optical sensors for...
signal instagram ads3

Signal Shares the Instagram Ads Facebook Doesn't Want You to See

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:29 am PDT by
Encrypted messaging app Signal has had a series of Instagram ads blocked from the social media platform, after it attempted to show users how much data the Facebook-owned company collects about them and how it's used to push targeted ads. In a blog post, Signal described how it generated the ads to show users why they were seeing them, simply by declaring upfront the information that the...
fortnite apple logo 2

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney Admits App Store's 30% Cut Is Similar to Consoles, Would Have Accepted Special Deal With Apple

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:54 pm PDT by
Apple's legal battle with Epic Games is continuing on, and during the second day of the trial, Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney continued his testimony against Apple. Sweeney was grilled by Apple's lawyers, and made several points seemingly favorable to Apple. In addition to mentioning how he prefers Apple's iPhone and values Apple's privacy policies that he's aiming to dismantle, Sweeney...
snapchat dark mode

Snapchat Rolls Out Dark Mode on iOS

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:17 am PDT by
Nearly two years following the release of iOS and iPadOS 13, which included native, built-in, and systemwide dark mode, Snapchat, one of the world's most prominent social media networks, has finally rolled out a dark mode theme for iOS users. Snapchat began testing a dark mode theme of its app design late last year with a small group of iOS users. Now, Snapchat says that as of this week, it...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With Brydge's 12.9-Inch iPad Pro Keyboard With Trackpad

Tuesday May 4, 2021 11:48 am PDT by
Brydge has been making keyboards for Apple's iPads for years now, and the newest model, the Brydge 12.9 MAX+, is compatible with the third, fourth, and fifth-generation iPad Pro models, so it works even with the new mini-LED iPad Pro. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. In our latest YouTube video, we checked out the new Brydge 12.9 MAX+ to see if it's a viable...
iphone 13 pro max dummy notch

iPhone 13 Pro Max Dummy Model Depicts Smaller Notch

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:08 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 13 models are expected to feature a slimmed down notch, marking the first major change to the TrueDepth camera system since it was introduced in the 2017 iPhone X. We're still months away from the launch of the iPhone 13, but Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy managed to get an iPhone 13 Pro Max dummy model that represents what we can expect from the new 2021 device. Dummy...
Flat 2021 MacBook Pro Mockup Feature 1

Mini-LED Display Production Improving for Redesigned MacBook Pro Models Later This Year

Monday May 3, 2021 8:33 am PDT by
Apple supplier TSMT, a key vendor involved in the production of mini-LED displays in the newly announced 12.9-inch iPad Pro, has been able to address technical challenges for the production of mini-LED displays to be used in the upcoming 14 and 16-inch redesigned MacBook Pro models. As reported by DigiTimes, TSMT had initially been facing production constraints with the circuit board and...
netflix sign up

Apple Discussed 'Punitive Measures' Against Netflix for Dropping In-App Purchases

Wednesday May 5, 2021 11:03 am PDT by
As the Epic Games v. Apple trial progresses into its third day, Apple's internal documents and communications with various companies are continuing to surface, giving us some insight into the dealings that Apple has had around the App Store. Back in December 2018, Netflix stopped offering in-app subscription options for new or resubscribing members and instead began requiring them to sign up ...
airtags

AirTag Owners Bemoan Inability to Let Others Track Their Items Via Family Sharing

Tuesday May 4, 2021 5:12 am PDT by
Apple's new AirTag item trackers have been making their way into the hands of customers since Friday, and while the company has tried to describe the ways that they can be used to find lost items, many users are still surprised and disappointed to learn that the location of an AirTag can't be shared with other family members. On the face of it, sharing the location of an AirTag via Apple's...