Google scrubs biased autocomplete suggestions from 2020 election searches

Google is scrubbing the autocomplete feature for queries on 2020 presidential candidates and voting to prevent suggestions that might lead to biased or inaccurate results, the company's vice president of search functionality says.

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Pandu Nayak announced the modifications in a blog post describing a number of developments in search and news features.

"We expanded our autocomplete policies related to elections, and we will remove predictions that could be interpreted as claims for or against any candidate or political party," Nayak wrote in a blog post. "We will also remove predictions that could be interpreted as a claim about participation in the election ... or the integrity or legitimacy of electoral processes, such as the security of the election."

Search predictions that make claims about "voting methods, requirements, or the status of voting locations" will also be removed, according to Nayak.

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"What this means in practice is that predictions like 'you can vote by phone' as well as 'you can't vote by phone,' or a prediction that says 'donate to' any party or candidate, should not appear in Autocomplete. Whether or not a prediction appears, you can still search for whatever you’d like and find results," Nayak said.

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The change comes just two months ahead of Nov. 3 elections as U.S. tech companies including Facebook, Twitter and others work to combat foreign interference after meddling in the 2016 election by Russian operatives, who are attempting similar maneuvers this year.

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To shield its users from such attempts, Google is conducting more than 1,000 quality tests a day, developing an intelligence desk that identifies potential information threats and deepening partnerships with government agencies, health organizations and Wikipedia.

"For elections information, we work with non-partisan civic organizations that provide authoritative information about voting methods, candidates, election results and more," Nayak said.

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Recently, the company partnered with the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health organizations to deliver accurate coronavirus information.

Facebook, Twitter and other sites have developed similar partnerships to help promote accurate information.

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