The fun is over— Google has announced that it will stop answering silly questions via a new update to its algorithm and AI strategy earlier this month. The move aims to improve the quality of its answers and the accuracy of its information and will be done mainly through improving “featured snippets.”
For those who aren’t familiar with featured snippets, also known as Google snippets, they are a generated excerpt of text from a web page that is displayed in SERPs. They are derived from a search query and assembled from stored metadata of authority sites and news outlets.This update promises smarter and more reliable answers to queries. Thus, no more “snappy” answers to stupid questions.
In a blog post, Pandu Nayak, the Company‘s head of search, announced the changes saying this clearly isn’t the most helpful way to display this result. “We’ve trained our systems to get better at detecting these sorts of false premises, which are not very common, but there are cases where it’s not helpful to show a featured snippet. We’ve reduced the triggering of featured snippets in these cases by 40% with this update,” he said.
In the past few years, Google has faced many accusations due to some SEO attacks that make answers in featured snippets misleading and sometimes funny. In 2017, Google was accused of spreading fake news by displaying that “Obama may in fact be planning a communist coup d’état at the end of his term in 2016”as a featured snippet to the question “Is Obama planning a coup?”
Nayak revealed a list of the most controversial answers to ten questions as an example of what Google refers to as “snappy answers” or “silly questions.”
One of the questions is: “When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln?,” to which the service would once respond with “1865.” Obviously, the 16th president of the United States was assassinated in 1865 but not by the Charlie Brown character.
By now, we all know that “funny,” “controversial,” “silly,” and “unreliable” are more or less synonymous with “misogynistic.” This is the case with the question “Are women bad?,” to which Google explicitly answers, “Every woman has a certain amount of prostitute in her. Every woman has a little evil in her… Women don’t like men, they like what they can do for them. It’s fair to say that women are attracted, but they can’t like men.”
In an effort to address the root cause of these silly answers, Google is also launching a “data void” update where a warning will be shown to some questions when good answers are not available or coming from low domain authority websites. Instead of featuring misleading and unreliable information, a notification stating “It looks like there aren’t many great results for this search” will pop up.