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Google’s “One True Answer” problem — when featured snippets go bad
Obama's planning a coup? Women are evil? Several presidents were in the KKK? Republicans are Nazis? Google can go spectacularly wrong with some of its direct answers.
Here we are again. Google’s in hot water because of what I call its “One True Answer” feature, where it especially highlights one search listing over all others as if that’s the very best answer. It’s a problem because sometimes these answers are terribly wrong.
At the end of last month, it was spotted that Google was listing several US presidents as being members of the Ku Klux Klan, even though there’s no conclusive evidence of any of this. This week, Google has featured answers saying that former President Barack Obama is plotting a coup and that Republicans are the same as Nazis
What’s happening in these cases involves a “featured snippet,” where Google has taken on of the 10 web listings it normally displays and put it into a special box, to highlight it as seemingly the best of all the answers, the listing that may fully answer your question.
I’ve taken to calling this Google’s “One True Answer” feature, because that’s effectively what it is to me. Google is expressing so much faith in this answer that it elevates it above all others.
The KKK example last month was kind of a tipping point for me, with Google getting it wrong with One True Answer. This isn’t a new problem. It’s one that has been allowed to fester over time.