Google will remove misleading election-related autocompletes

Suggestions to finish search strings like "You can vote by" won't end in misleading claims.

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CHINA - 2020/08/13: In this photo illustration the American multinational technology company and search engine Google logo is seen on an Android mobile device with United States of America flag in the background. (Photo Illustration by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images via Getty Images

In the fight against fake news, even a search engine’s autocomplete suggestions can create confusion. Google announced today that it’s updating its autocomplete policies related to elections, adding that it will “remove predictions that could be interpreted as a claim about participation in the election” as well as “predictions that could be interpreted as claims for or against any candidate or political party.” Things that sound like they might be claims about voting methods, requirements or status of voting locations will not be shown either. So if you type something like “You can vote by” or “you can’t vote by” into the search box, autocomplete won’t suggest finishing that statement with “phone.”

Similarly, if you enter “donate to,” political parties or candidates should not show up as suggestions. Of course, just because autocomplete doesn’t finish your query with a prediction doesn’t mean you can’t type it in yourself. You can still type “You can vote by phone” if you wish, or “donate to party candidate” and get those results.

In its announcement, Google also reminded us that most of its policies around Search that are designed to protect against hateful and inappropriate predictions are automatic. But it also admitted that these systems are not perfect or precise, and if certain predictions slip through it will manually enforce those policies. This means you might still see the odd misleading autocomplete suggestion that slips through the automated filters, but Google may get to removing it in time.

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