Google Concerned About Health Information

A friend of mine is a doctor.

She’s very dismissive of the medial information on the internet. Not because some of it isn’t accurate, but because so much of it isn’t.

Google are concerned about this, too:

How do I know if the information is trustworthy and reliable?
There is a lot of material out there about drugs, diseases, procedures and treatments. How do you know what is trustworthy and what isn’t? Search is great at finding us places with relevant information, but it is hard to know which links are reliable and which are less so.
Honestly, this is a hard problem. “

I don’t find it surprising that Google can’t figure it out. Google’s algos are based around popularity and the perceived authority of the masses. Medical diagnosis and advice is a more individual and personal activity.

A better idea, I feel, would be for Google to use more human editorial discretion. Promote health information from rigorously certified sources, in the same way a university library would select reference material. Use real academic citation, not the web variant. Google has a ton of money – hire a board of medical advisers. Agree on a corpus of reliable publishers. Produce part of that corpus, if need be.

This wouldn’t solve all the issues. Nor is it Google’s core business. But if they are in the business of providing answers, which they are in a defacto way, then they’re going to need to do more than rely on the mechanized wisdom of crowds if they want to provide users with reliable health information.

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