back to article One in three kids believe Google measures truthiness

Congratulations, Jimbo! Almost one third of British secondary school children believe Google ranks search results in order of their truthfulness, according to new research by Ofcom. The statistic - great news for Wikipedians, terrifying for the rest of us - was reported in the communications regulator's annual report on …


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  1. Xander

    Cause and Effect

    "69 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds now restrict who can access their profile, up 10 per cent from last year."

    I wonder if there's any correlation between that 10% and their parents joining Facebook...

  2. Toastan Buttar
    Thumb Up

    Do YOU know how PageRank works ? Really ?

    "Some 18 per cent said they didn't know how Google and other search engines rank results, significantly up from four per cent last year."

    I wonder how many of us adults would be brave enough to admit that ?

  3. Anonymous Coward


    "the majority of parents said they trust their children to use the internet safely"

    This will have a real negative impact on kids and is another example of the easy/lazy laissez-faire parenting model. For an example just have a glance at pedo-vision...i mean stickam.

    Hell I don't trust my adult user base to use the internet safely....

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Dead Vulture

    Doubleplusungood usage of "truthiness"

    The correct word to use would be the standard "truthfulness"

    As the Urban Dictionary states:


    "The quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts."

    Origin: Stephen Colbert, "The Colbert Report," 2005

    The quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts.

    Origin: Stephen Colbert, "The Colbert Report," 2005

    "And that brings us to tonight's word: truthiness.

    "Now I'm sure some of the Word Police, the wordanistas over at Webster's, are gonna say, 'Hey, that's not a word.' Well, anybody who knows me knows that I'm no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They're elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn't true, or what did or didn't happen. Who's Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that's my right. I don't trust books. They're all fact, no heart."

  5. Jon Wilson

    "Some 18 per cent said they didn't know how Google and other search engines rank results"

    Well, given that officially at least, that information is a commercial confidence, 18% is low, no?

    There are gajillions of SEO "experts" who'll tell you they know exactly how to cheat Google's page ranking, but what they don't say is that Google tend to be ahead in that particular arms race.

    The short answer to the question of how Google decides how to rank their results is basically "don't worry your pretty little head about it"

    Anyway, like most new media press revelations, there's really nothing new here at all. "It must be true, I read it in a book" is as old as the hills.

  6. The Other Steve

    Scuse me while I go somewhere quiet and weep

    " children's "media literacy" "

    E.g. They don't have any.

    And this is why, despite what the blowhards say, media studies is a Good Thing. If the damned anklebiters actually had a proper understanding of "the media", in which they are more immersed than most, they wouldn't make such rash judgements.


  7. Pete 2

    ascending or descending order?

    and how many children know that "the truth" is anyway? Hint: not what surveys tell us.

  8. Joefish

    @The Other Steve

    Perhaps you intended to use 'i.e.' rather than 'e.g'?

    I would suggest that 'Media Literacy' is probably a good thing to teach children as a seperate topic, on the tacit agreement that all the media-friendly corrupted literature, doctored history and soundbite-science can be excised from the rest of the curriculum; just like Religious Studies has its place, yet still seems to need the occasional whacking to make sure it stays there. Still, at least kids appear to be getting a better grip on the internet. Perhaps they could use this article as an example of how even statistics that show an unambiguous improvement can be spun into a negative report.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    And these kids today ......

    ... are going to be wiping our asses when we are in our twighlight years in some home/camp.

    Frightening eh?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    I have No idea

    how Google or any other search engine ranks its page presentation.

    Do I care? Probably not.

    Why? What difference does it make to me as an average punter? If I don't like what I find I'll look further. If I like what I find then 'job done'.

    I have some advantages in that I have an engineering background and I'm between 3 and 4 times older than 12-18 yr olds. (I'm a technically literate, cynical old fart) I don't look at the adverts so, really, I am not on the websearch engine radar and that is just fine for me...

    However, the next generation and young people in general are getting screwed and that does agrevate more than a little bit. If I knew of a way I could effect change I'd be on it like a lioness on a wilderbeast. Ideas welcomed!

  11. The Other Steve

    @By Joefish

    "Perhaps you intended to use 'i.e.' rather than 'e.g'?"

    No, fuckface, I intended to use E.g, exempli gratia, "for the sake of an example"

    You might not like my sentence structure, but kindly don't presume my intent.

    Media Studies _is_ a separate topic, at all levels from GCSE up, and as for "corrupted literature, doctored history and soundbite-science" I think you can do AS levels in those.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    1 in 3 kids are thick

    Damn that's depressing

  13. J 3
    Paris Hilton

    @Destroy All Monsters

    Apparently the joke was lost on you. Did the sarcasm trick you?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, my kid...

    ...thinks that Google is just a way to search for 'xxcnvvvvvvvvvv0000; zmmmm,'.

    But he's 15 months old, so that's not so bad.

  15. ratfox Silver badge


    The weird thing is that Google MISquotes Wikipedia...

    e.g (the correct e.g):

    The answer reads:

    Australia — Population - Density: 2.6/km2 (235th)

    According to

    So Google quotes answers from Wikipedia... OR DOES IT??

    If you go check the page itself, you find a different number of 2.833/km2 for the population density of Australia... And I precise, despite the mutating nature of Wikipedia, the number quoted has not changed for months. What gives?

    Why would Google give a number and pretend it was found on a Wikipedia page? Cui bono?

  16. Rolf Parker

    Always get a second opinion before you buy!

    If I'm looking to buy something for a good price using Google I tend to do the search look at the offers for comparison on the first page and then go through the results backwards. The sites that have to pay google for the ranking will need to get their investment back somehow. Either they have a huge turnaround or their prices have to be adjusted!

  17. JMB


    You and Yours (I think) did an item on scammers advertising concert tickets. One person caught out said he put the name of the group into Google and used the first name on the list of matches because he thought that would genuine.

    I would thought everyone would have learnt to ignore the first few Google matches!


  18. Anonymous Coward

    We don't know what Google does

    ``Almost one third of British secondary school children believe Google ranks search results in order of their truthfulness, according to new research by Ofcom."

    ``Only a slightly larger proportion - 37 per cent - believe results are ranked on their usefulness or relevance."

    ``The next generation of cynics - 14 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds - said websites pay money for the top spots."

    There is some truth in all of these answers! Please read how to lie with statistics.

    Let's look at truthfulness - one would like to assume that trusted sources are more widely cited than untrusted ones; it follows therefore that the will achieve a higher rank.

    ``Some 18 per cent said they didn't know how Google and other search engines rank results, significantly up from four per cent last year."

    This is probably the only correct answer. None of us know (modulo Google employees) exactly how Google works. This is why there are jobs in SEO!

  19. Malcolm Boura 2

    Censorship can be harmful

    Unfortunately most filtering software is based on prejudice rather than evidence of harm and most of the software reflects US prejudices which are particular harmful. Try comparing the teenage prengnancy rate for the USA or any other prudish country with those for the most enlightened. Then think long and hard about the attitudes which make such enormous differences.

  20. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @By Joefish

    By the fuck, any thread on here can turn into a handbag-smashing melee, can't it?

    Can we not call each other 'fuckface', lovely a swear though it is? And keep a civil tongue and all that? Thank you boys.

  21. Dr Patrick J R Harkin


    You can't handle the truthiness!

  22. Anonymous Coward

    It's not just the kids.

    I paid £800 to a company for a legal document that, on delivery, turned out to be a direct (and entire) cut and paste of the topic's Wikipedia page.

    Sorry, should have said "was quoted", rather than "paid", because obviously I haven't.

  23. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    @Sarah Bee

    "By the fuck"

    LOL, ROFL, !!111eleventyone!!, etc.

  24. Matt Newton


    It should be "i.e." rather than "e.g.".

    You may very well have meant to use "e.g." but you're using it incorrectly :)

  25. David Beck

    What about "popularity" ranking?

    Google ranking -

    relevance - how can you judge relevance when the search criteria are one or two words?

    adwords - separately displayed results and blocked in some cases

    popularity - measured by inward links, best for Google as it presents the most popular results first and therefore is guaranteed to satisfy the most users.

    Google does not attempt completeness so you can only safely use it to find things that you know when you've found, you supply the completeness.

    So, was "popularity" on the list of answers the kids gave?

  26. raving angry loony

    popularity disease

    Note this is the same generation that's been completely brought up with the mantra if something is "popular", it's "better". If a restaurant is "popular", then it must have higher quality. If a news channel is "popular", then it must be more accurate and reliable. If an operating system is "popular", then it must be more robust and useable. if a website is "popular", then it must be more reliable.

    It's a sad state of affairs. I simply fail anyone using Wikipedia as a reference in a research paper. They can use it to get an overview of a subject, but to use it as a reference is to lack any form of understanding of what makes something reliable.

  27. John PM Chappell

    I.E. not E.G. ;¬)

    In the spirit of joining the fray, The Other Steve? You're doing it wrong. You want I.E. not E.G. whether you realize your error or not. HtH.

  28. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Popularity V Best

    At the turn of the Millenium there was a rash of voted items; Best Song of all Time, Film ditto etc etc.

    It was so depressing. The number of idiots who said that they thought that their most recent favourite chart topper was the best song of all time..

    P.S. Kids in school - I'm a teacher- seem to think that "best" means the same as " favourite".


  29. David Gillies

    You're not meant to know how Google ranks sites

    Widespread knowledge of exactly how Google ranks things would be a gift to those charlatans who list 'SEO' on their CVs. What we do know is it has roots in spectral graph theory but with a substantial number of knobs on. If you can find me a schoolkid in Britain who knows what a graph eigenspectrum is then you win a lollipop.

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