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Google won't be answering these silly questions any more

Oh My Mag logo Oh My Mag 8/12/2022 Ashley Jones
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The Google search engine will stop offering snappy answers to silly questions as part of measures to improve the service’s featured snippets, the company has announced. The feature gives quick, short answers to users without them visiting a website. However, this feature has landed the company in some trouble in the past.

Featured snippets

Google, the biggest search engine has been accused of spreading fake news in the past due to some of the answers given to stupid questions people ask. For instance, when users asked, ‘can I remove a tick with my teeth?’, Google answered by suggesting that they ‘pull upward with steady, even pressure’.

The new changes will mean the search engine will no longer answer questions such as ‘When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln?’, to which the service would once respond with ‘1865’ – the right date, but very much the wrong assassin. In a blogpost announcing the changes, Pandu Nayak, Google’s head of search said:

This clearly isn’t the most helpful way to display this result. We’ve trained our systems to get better at detecting these sorts of false premises, which are not very common, but there are cases where it’s not helpful to show a featured snippet.
Getty/ SOPA Images © Provided by Oh My Mag Getty/ SOPA Images

Data void

The featured snippet service uses the same technology as those used in Google’s smart speakers and voice assistants. It lets the search engine satisfy search queries without visitors clicking away to other websites, according to The Guardian.

However, due to some of the misleading —and sometimes comical — responses to questions, the company is rolling out new warnings for times when a search term has hit a ‘data void’ – a question where a good answer might simply not exist. Now, the site will let you know if there aren’t good results for the query. Nayak explained:

This doesn’t mean that no helpful information is available, or that a particular result is low-quality. These notices provide context about the whole set of results on the page, and you can always see the results for your query, even when the advisory is present.

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