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Go ahead, ask Google “What happened to the dinosaurs?” — if you haven’t already. In some countries, Google still serves up the following answer:

The Bible gives us a framework for explaining dinosaurs in terms of thousands of years of history, including the mystery of when they lived and what happened to them. Dinosaurs are used more than almost anything else to indoctrinate children and adults in the idea of millions of years of earth history.

That creationist response originally made headlines in May. It’s one of the most public blunders caused by Google’s “Knowledge Graph.”

About that Graph: The search feature launched back in 2012 with a grand vision typical of Google. In lofty prose, the company called it “a critical first step towards building the next generation of search.” But three years post launch, it’s clear that Google’s Knowledge Graph remains imperfect. Should we expect perfection from Google’s fact-hunting robots? The term “Knowledge Graph” alone makes it tough not to.

Queries like “new world order,” “what gender is superior,” and “is god real,” have yielded questionable results in recent months, drawing jokes and confusion from alarmed users across the Internet.

At best, Google’s Knowledge Graph flubs are unfortunate — maybe even comical. But deep down, many incidents involving the Graph and other tools have tarnished the company’s objective to “make search more intelligent.”

Results and answers …

The Internet, like television, features opinions, lies, some facts, and everything in-between. As such, the old adage remains true: “don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” This seems well-enough understood that it’s hardly worth noting.

And yet there is a difference, somehow, between a search result and a bona fide answer — search results must be combed through and sources must be checked. But Google’s instant answers halt that process of skepticism. Google’s “facts” are served with no caveat to suggest they might be skewed by conspiracy theorists or overzealous SEO experts. They’re dished out before the user even has time to question them.

Google may call these answers “experiments,” but that doesn’t make the implication of truth any less real, particularly for kids and anyone prone to spending days at a time outside the confines of a Web browser.

By creating this Knowledge Graph, Google assumes responsibility for presenting real knowledge, and it should be held accountable for the results it screws up.


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