10 'silly questions' Google Search will now refuse to answer

From ‘How to get in touch with the Illuminati?’ to ‘When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln?’: 10 ‘silly questions’ Google Search will now REFUSE to answer

  • Google trying to improve its ‘featured snippets’ by not answering silly questions
  • Snippets sometimes show as a response to questions asked of Google Search
  • It allows search engine to answer questions without visitors going to other sites
  • But it has had issues, including Google being accused of spreading ‘fake news’

Google is to stop giving quick answers to silly questions as it seeks to improve its ‘featured snippets’ tool.

The service – which sometimes shows up as a response to direct questions asked of the search engine – has previously fallen foul of spreading false information.

Changes to the way it works, announced by Google in a blog post, will mean that users should see fewer answers to questions such as ‘When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln?’

This question would throw up the result 1865 — the right date, but obviously not the correct  killer. 

‘This clearly isn’t the most helpful way to display this result,’ Google’s head of search, Pandu Nayak, wrote in the announcement.

Google is to stop giving quick answers to silly questions as it seeks to improve its ‘featured snippets’ tool. Changes to the way it works, in a blog post, will mean that users should see fewer answers to questions such as ‘When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln?’ 

‘Why are firetrucks red?’, meanwhile, has seen the search engine inadvertently repeating a joke from Monty Python

EXAMPLES OF THE ‘SILLY QUESTIONS’ GOOGLE WILL NO LONGER ANSWER

1. When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln?

Google’s answer: ‘1865’ 

2. How to get in touch with the Illuminati?

Google’s answer: ‘Want to get rich? Apply today and join the Illuminati!’

3. Can I remove a tick with my teeth?

Google’s answer: ‘Pull upward with steady, even pressure.’

4. Who is king of the United States?

Google’s answer: ‘Barack Obama’

5. Is Obama planning a coup?

Google’s answer: ‘Obama may in fact be planning a communist coup d’état at the end of his term in 2016.’

6. Why are firetrucks red?

Google’s answer: ‘Because they have eight wheels and four people on them, and four plus eight is twelve, there are twelve inches in a foot, and one foot is a ruler, and Queen Elizabeth was as a ruler, and Queen Elizabeth was also a ship, and the ship sailed the seas, and in the seas are fish, and the fish have fins, and the Finns fought the Russians, and the Russians are red, and that is why firetrucks are red!’ 

7. Presidents in the Klan

Google’s answer:

  • President William McKinley
  • President Woodrow Wilson
  • President Warren G. Harding
  • President Harry S.  Truman 

8. How to get a date

Google’s answer: 

  •  Hang out in places with people your own age.
  • Ask a friend or family member to set you up with someone.
  • Strike up a conversation with a stranger.
  • Use open body language when you’re talking to people.
  • Try a little small talk to keep things light.
  • Suggest an activity for a date to be direct.

9. Are women evil?

Google’s answer: ‘Every woman has some degree of prostitute in her. Every woman has a little evil in her… Women don’t love men, they love what they can do for them. 

‘It is within reason to say women feel attraction but they cannot love men.’

10. What happened to the dinosaurs?

Google’s answer: ‘Dinosaurs are used more than anything else to indoctrinate children and adults in the idea of millions of years of earth history.’

‘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.

‘We’ve reduced the triggering of featured snippets in these cases by 40 per cent with this update’.  

Other questions that have confused the snippet feature include ‘Who is the king of the United States?’, which once yielded the answer ‘Barack Obama’.

The service – which sometimes shows up as a response to direct questions asked of the search engine – has previously fallen foul of spreading false information

‘Why are firetrucks red?’, meanwhile, has seen the search engine inadvertently repeating a joke from Monty Python, responding with: ‘Because they have eight wheels and four people on them, and four plus eight is twelve, there are twelve inches in a foot, and one foot is a ruler, and Queen Elizabeth was as a ruler, and Queen Elizabeth was also a ship, and the ship sailed the seas, and in the seas are fish, and the fish have fins, and the Finns fought the Russians, and the Russians are red, and that is why firetrucks are red!’

The company would also tell users that stairs were invented in 1946 — after reading a website that attributed a particular US safety regulation to that date.

The same technology used for the featured snippets is also what powers Google’s smart speakers and voice assistants.

Its key purpose is to allow the search engine to answer queries without users having to click onto other websites. 

Snippets appear under many searches, but because they directly answer questions by quoting pages, they can backfire in ways that standard query responses don’t.

Other questions that have confused the snippet feature include ‘Who is the king of the United States?’, which once yielded the answer ‘Barack Obama’

The service – which sometimes shows up as a featured response to direct questions asked of the search engine – has previously fallen foul of spreading false information. One search pulled false information from a site that said former US presidents William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Harry Truman were members of the Ku Klux Klan

For example, when you search for how long light takes to get from the sun to Earth, Google at one point offered a snippet that highlighted the distance from Pluto instead.

In 2017, the search engine was accused of spreading fake news after a featured snippet for the query ‘Is Obama planning a coup’ led to the answer ‘Obama may in fact be planning a communist coup d’état at the end of his term in 2016’.

It had found the information on a conspiracy website.

Try typing in ‘can I remove a tick with my teeth?’ in Google search, meanwhile, and the first thing you’ll see is advice from the Centers for Disease Control to ‘pull upward with steady, even pressure.’

Of course, the CDC is referring to using a tool like tweezers rather than your mouth, but Google isn’t always able to display the answer clearly.  

Type in how to get a date and Google bizarrely provides a list of 10 steps to take

Worse still, a few years ago it was found that by asking ‘Are women evil?’, the search engine produced this featured snipped: ‘Every woman has some degree of prostitute in her. Every woman has a little evil in her… Women don’t love men, they love what they can do for them. 

‘It is within reason to say women feel attraction but they cannot love men.’

In an attempt to address the root cause of such errors, Google is also planning to introduce warnings for times when a search term has hit a ‘data void’.

This is defined as a question where a good answer may not actually exist.

‘It looks like there aren’t many great results for this search,’ the site now warns visitors.

Nayak said: ‘This doesn’t mean that no helpful information is available, or that a particular result is low-quality. 

‘These notices provide context.’

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