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We depend on Google for looking up facts and information on any topic. But since Google doesn’t verify every link, it’s not always wise to trust the data it gives you.
Google’s algorithms like PageRank have got better at assessing expertise and trustworthiness of a website. But the wrong information can sneak in or we as readers can make mistakes in interpreting the search results.
Some topics need expert eyes. And that’s why it is always better to tread with caution while exploring these six sensitive subjects.
1. Medical Information
We don’t have to live in a state of uncertainty when we’re not feeling well. Google allows us to instantly diagnose our symptoms. However, there’s a reason behind the “Don’t trust Google” signs at your doctor’s clinic.
Medical sites don’t have access to your records. Therefore, they end up suggesting all the possible causes and treatments for a symptom—not specific to your case.
So while fever is technically one of the symptoms of cancer, it doesn’t mean you have it. You are most likely suffering from just a common cold.
Hence, you should undergo a proper checkup and consult a real doctor before reaching a conclusion.
2. Financial Advice
Taking care of your finances can be a demanding process. But Google is the last place from which you should seek advice.
Google’s treasure trove of data is, at best, a supplementary resource for your financial research. On a search engine, you’ll come across a range of opinions and articles which might mislead or cloud your judgment. A straightforward query on a particular investment will surface a myriad of links and it will be difficult to gauge which one offers sound guidance.
Hence, you should stick to more credible financial research platforms and not a search engine like Google to base your ultimate decisions and understand market trends.
3. Conspiracy Theories
Another topic you should stay clear of on Google is conspiracy theories. Controversial arguments tend to drive the most traffic online. Some websites exploit this by talking about theories that would fetch more clicks and stimulate conversations.
Google is home to the internet’s wildest stories which often rank high just because they’re popular. Even for folklore as absurd as the Bigfoot, you will find enough evidence to convince someone (or just yourself). And that’s just within the first few pages… you don’t need to go down the rabbit hole.
For instance, searching for “bigfoot real” on Google will easily lead you to numerous compilations of supposedly real photos of Bigfoot sightings.
4. Breaking News
Misinformation runs rampant on the web and like other online platforms, Google too has struggled to get a grip on the spread of fake news. The issue’s effects magnify during a breaking news event. In such scenarios, the details are scant, which gives rise to hoaxes and rumors.
While Google has safety measures in place for tackling misinformation, they often don’t kick in immediately. By the time Google takes a false news piece down, there’s a good chance it has been read by millions.
So when you fire up Google right after there’s a breaking news alert, you risk running into speculation-based reporting. A better alternative is to directly browse specific news sites and sources you trust instead of Google.
5. Religious Practices
Google offers an abundance of resources for people looking to be more religiously informed. However, it’s also in a constant battle with racial bias and discrimination. While researching, you will encounter sites that favor certain religions. It’s difficult to judge the veracity of these web pages when you’re new to the subject.
In her book titled “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism”, Safiya Umoja Noble argues that search engines like Google are not “trusted, credible public information portals” and says they’re discriminatory and favor the groups that designed or funded them.
This monopoly of information is a threat to democracy…
Since Google’s algorithms are influenced by what the majority of its users are searching, minorities end up being misrepresented.
6. Chemical-Related Queries
When you’re dealing with chemicals, even a minor error can prove fatal. Therefore, if there’s a chemical-related detail you aren’t sure about, turning to Google’s search engine might not be the best way forward. Google is known to host a range of contradictory data and deciding which one to trust can be a challenge.
Like medical platforms, chemical sites don’t have access to your circumstances and environmental properties like the room’s ambient temperature.
This applies to the use of chemicals in scenarios outside of the lab too. For instance, the debate concerning whether the presence of Chlorine in swimming pools has an adverse on your health has divided the internet for ages.
As an alternative to Google, you can check out the official websites of chemistry boards and associations.
Yes, Don’t Trust Wikipedia Facts Either
One of the biggest misconceptions about the internet is that the information on Wikipedia is always vetted and accurate. That’s far from the truth. Most of Wikipedia’s content is crowd-sourced and can be edited by anyone.
Contrary to popular belief, the site doesn’t have a team of human curators who fact-check everything.
So while Wikipedia is harmless as far as basic facts are concerned, you should verify what you find there with other sites that are more reliable than Wikipedia.
Use Google Filters for Reliable Searches
Google processes thousands of queries each second and is one of the internet’s best inventions. But its search engine algorithms have also allowed misleading websites to flourish. While there are a handful of other topics you shouldn’t depend on Google for, the ones we discussed here top that list.
One of the methods you can use to narrow down to trustworthy sources is the set of Google’s search filters. Here are the best Google tips, operators, and commands you should know to find the right information you need.