After news about the Texas church shooter came out, many searchers went to Google to learn more about the shooter. What they found when searching the shooter’s name in Google Sunday night, and for a period of time afterward, was highlighted tweets from Google’s Twitter partnership that showed misinformation. Last night, Google issued a statement promising to improve the accuracy of the tweets shown in that search feature, just like they did for the top news stories some time ago.
Here is one of many examples of what was shown in the Google search results for a query on the shooter’s name:
News publishers saw what was going on, and dozens of stories started popping up all over the internet about how poorly Google handled this query.
The search results appearing from Twitter, which surface based on our ranking algorithms, are changing second by second and represent a dynamic conversation that is going on in near real-time. For the queries in question, they are not the first results we show on the page. Instead, they appear after news sources, including our Top Stories carousel which we have been constantly updating. We’ll continue to look at ways to improve how we rank tweets that appear in search.
Google has come under fire many times in their history around what they show in their search results around breaking stories. Google has often taken the criticism and made improvements for the better. I suspect Google will do the same here, with how they show tweets and manage autocomplete for queries like this.
Danny Sullivan, now with Google, took the lead on Google’s end to communicate how Google is aware of the issue, is not happy with their quality on what tweets were shown in the search results, how the autocomplete interface also needs work, and their promise to do better in the near future. Here are the tweets from Danny Sullivan on this:
Google search & tweets about the Texas shooting
Will this mean Google will handle all cases like this perfectly in the future? No, I am confident we will have another story about Google’s search results showing misinformation or unsatisfactory information around breaking news stories in the future. But this only makes Google and their competitors better at making improvements to their search results.