Google Considers Removing Controversial Knowledge Panel

With concerns about tech bias dominating the news cycle, Google wants to remove its information panel from search engine results.

The Knowledge Panel, generated primarily by crowd-sourced information website Wikipedia, is often the first thing users see when searching a topic such as a celebrity, historical figure, or political party. With a few short sentences and associations, it can often make using the actual links provided by the search engine superfluous. However, in light of recent controversies and the ongoing modern concerns about fake news, information warfare, and content manipulation, the implications are far more drastic. According to Search Engine Roundtable, Google has confirmed it will be running tests where the panel in question is no longer used. 

A famous example of the panel’s previous scandals was reported by Fox News, when the Knowledge Panel cited Wikipedia’s erroneous entry listing “Nazism” as the ideology of the California Republican Party. The error was originally spotted and tweeted by political strategist and LearnTestOptimize founder Eric Wilson, who later commented “Google should apologize for labeling Republicans Nazis.”

While this may have been a case of a prankster editor at Wikipedia, Google has had similar scandals over biased search results.

Another Knowledge Panel brouhaha occurred when Google’s Knowledge Panel for Senator Trudy Wade (R-NC) showed a photo of her with the word “BIGOT” superimposed in large red letters.

When this was discovered, Google quickly apologized to Senator Wade. Shortly afterward Google publicly stated that “We have systems in place that catch vandalism before it impacts search results, but occasionally errors get through, and that’s what happened here,” they noted “This would have been fixed systematically once we processed the removal from Wikipedia, but when we noticed the vandalism we worked quickly to accelerate this process to remove the erroneous information.”

While the crowd-sourcing of information may be vulnerable to vandalism or politically-driven edits, many are concerned that allowing a politically biased council to curate the information may be just as problematic.

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