New guidelines for Google’s review team contractors known as “quality raters” call for them to flag content under a new category called “upsetting-offensive.”
According to the Search Engine Land blog, the guidelines for quality raters are almost 200 pages long and instruct 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 guidelines define “upsetting-offensive” content as:
- 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 (e.g., how tos on human trafficking or violent assault).
- Other types of content which users in your locale would find extremely upsetting or offensive.
Among the direct examples included in the guidelines is one about a search for Holocaust history. Two results returned from that search might be “Top 10 reasons why the Holocaust didn’t happen,” at Stormfront.org (our search did not return this site) and “The Holocaust – World War II” at History.com.
Reviewers are told to flag the Stormfront.org as “upsetting-offensive” because:
This result is a discussion of how to convince others that the Holocaust never happened. Because of the direct relationship between Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism (sic), many people would consider it offensive.
But the reviewers are told not to flag The History Channel because:
While the Holocaust itself is a potentially upsetting topic for some, this result is a factually accurate source of historical information. Furthermore, the page does not exist to promote hate or violence against a group of people, contain racial slurs, or depict graphic violence.
In other words, a Google search is supposed to only return information that is approved by court historians and contain conventional wisdom.
The problems with such an idea are legion; not the least of which is the fact that “upsetting-offensive” is such a subjective concept. And the notion that The History Channel is “a factually accurate source of historical information” is laughable, as Bob Livingston showed in “History Channel’s not-so-historical ‘Sons of Liberty’.”
Search Engine Land notes that a return receiving a flag does not necessarily mean the website will be stricken from the search or demoted from its ranking. Instead, it is to be used as information for Google’s coders to create algorithms that better spot content that should be flagged.
And remember, there are other search engines beyond Google, like Bing, Yahoo and Ask. Here is a list of the top 15 search engines by use. And if you want to search alternative sites you can use Good Gopher, which allows you to select a search of independent media, mainstream media, academia or products.