Google Search’s AI Answers May Push Misinformation

ai answers, google, ai overviews, misinformation

Google Search’s AI answers may be pushing fake information to the forefront of people’s minds.

  • Despite extensive testing, the tool began generating false information almost immediately.
  • The AI falsely claimed Barack Obama is a Muslim and forgot Kenya’s existence.
  • Unlike previous AI tools which required deliberate access, AI Overviews is integrated directly into Google Search, making it more pervasive.

Google’s AI Overviews is already glitching and giving out false information, despite being online for only 13 days, as of time of writing.

On May 14th, Google introduced its new AI-powered search results, dubbed AI Overviews. The team even moved the regular results to a ‘Web’ tab to make room for it as default. The idea behind this is to let AI Overviews fetch the answer to your complex questions after analyzing information from various sources. It’s meant to cut time on the search. The new addition rolled out for U.S. users, and from the looks of things, it missed the mark by a mile.

AI Answers Leave Much to Be Desired

Everything was going fine, minus everyone’s unhappiness at Google messing with its engine, until the Gemini-powered AI tool started hallucinating. If you’re not familiar with that term, it refers to when the machine starts making up its AI answers. Sometimes the hallucinations are rather harmless, if not funny. This one Reddit user asked ChatGPT about “a highly rated inventory and SKU management iOS app with a free trial.” The glitching AI’s answer, however, was centered around a Toyota Corolla.

In AI overviews’ case, it hallucinated that former U.S. President Barack Obama is a Muslim, picking up on the common misconception from the internet. Also, it is convinced that none of Africa’s recognized countries start with ‘K’. What has Kenya ever done to you, Gemini, for you to forget it?

Colette Garcia, a spokesperson for Google, said in a statement that they “conducted extensive testing before launching this new experience, and as with other features we’ve launched in Search, we appreciate the feedback.” She mentioned that some of the more egregious AI results were, in fact, doctored.

These examples of misinformation are not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, or are they?

Here’s the Issue Though

Before Google’s AI-powered answers, you had to go out of your way in some sense to interact with artificially intelligent chatbots. ChatGPT, Gemini, Copilot, and all the others each had a link. You would have to go there to ask your questions and get your AI answers. Now, on the other hand, the AI is right there when you open your Google search engine.

Now, you might be thinking: “But Copilot is also easily accessible on Bing?’ Fair enough. But let’s be honest here, who uses Bing? According to Statcounter, as of April 2024, Bing holds a measly 3.64% of the search engine market, compared to Google’s 90.91%. Not to mention, Google had DECADES to build credibility. To a shockingly large number of people, a fact is not a fact unless it’s on Google. At least, it’s better than Facebook.

Let’s go back to Obama being Muslim. It’s a common misconception that is reflected in the AI answers. No big deal, right? Well, imagine this. People during the election cycle are looking for reasons to not vote for this candidate and that candidate. So, you’re researching your options to make an informed decision and asking Google’s AI, like you do about everything else.

The AI answers that your favorite candidate has had a child out of wedlock with his mistress. And that does it for you; you are not voting for the man because he’s an adulterer. However, the truth is much different than the AI results. It turns out that the AI picked up on some popular dispelled rumor. And your faith in Google’s credibility fooled you.

This year is an election year in the U.S. as well as multiple other countries. So, any misinformation, especially ones that play into people’s prejudice and personal beliefs, could tip the scales in the favor of either candidate. AI search engines need to be much more careful.

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