Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Bad Answers From Google’s Featured Snippets

Adrianne Jeffries, the Outline:

Peter Shulman, an associate history professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, was lecturing on the reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s when a student asked an odd question: Was President Warren Harding a member of the KKK?

Shulman was taken aback. He confessed that he was not aware of that allegation, but that Harding had been in favor of anti-lynching legislation, so it seemed unlikely. But then a second student pulled out his phone and announced that yes, Harding had been a Klan member, and so had four other presidents. It was right there on Google, clearly emphasized inside a box at the top of the page.

Jeffries found similar answers from crappy sources for questions about whether Barack Obama is planning to declare martial law, why firetrucks are red, and how to get a date, amongst other things. And, earlier this week, I found that it was using Shiva Ayyadurai’s own website to wrongly answer my query, “who invented email”.

It appears that these quick answers are also being used to power Google’s voice assistant, too.