The search giant is facing a backlash over the way it made the case that it was able to make links that were difficult to verify, a reversal of its previous position that suggested links were a sign of trustworthiness.
Google said Thursday it had removed all of its reverse link checkers in response to a New York Times report that showed the company had made it easier for people to find the right link for them by giving them the option to “reverse link” them.
The reversal of Google’s previous position was the result of a recent Times report which showed Google had made some links look more trustworthy than they actually were, including links in the newsfeed of people who were looking for a news story.
The Times story said Google had been able to reverse link many of these fake links to their rightful sources, such as news organizations, because the search giant has added “reverse” to its terms of service.
Google has denied any wrongdoing.
Google spokeswoman Megan Spaulding told Business Insider in a statement that the company was not trying to hide or downplay the problems with the “reverse links” feature.
“Google is committed to making our tools as safe as possible for our users, but it’s important to acknowledge that we have seen some false positive links and have removed some of them,” Spauldings wrote.
“We have been working with our partners at Google to improve the reverse link tool and are committed to removing as many of the false positives as we can,” she said.
The Times story cited a person familiar with Google’s testing and found that the search engine’s “reverse linking” tool could give false positive results for users who have searched for a link that appeared to have been made by a company that Google did not endorse or sponsor.
The article said Google tested the “search for a source” feature in conjunction with a separate test for the “sensor feedback” feature that allowed users to “suggest a different link that would have more accuracy.”
In the first case, the article said, “a search for a specific news source, like CNN or The Wall Street Journal, was not found to be a false positive, as long as the user suggested a different source.”
The Times reported that the Google test had uncovered many fake news stories, many of which appeared to originate from fake news sites, but did not provide details about how many such stories were discovered.
In the second case, a person who had requested the “Sensors feedback” option said she was able find a fake news story that was written by CNN, which it did not name.
“CNN has not endorsed or sponsored this site,” the person told the Times.
The story said the person who tried the test also found a link to an article on the website of a fake university, which had been flagged as a fake by Google.
“Google did not find any false positives and removed the links,” the Times said.
In response to the article, a Google spokeswoman said in a separate statement that “the test results were based on searches conducted by our customers using the Google Search Console.”
In a statement to Business Insider, a spokesman for Google’s parent company Alphabet said that the test had found a “small number of links that have been linked to false or misleading content” and that “we are continuing to work with the news media to correct this issue.”
“Google will continue to remove links that we believe are misleading and will take further steps to ensure the quality of our results and our partners’ results,” the statement said.
Google has not said if the company will add “reverse,” or a similar, feature to its search results.
“We are currently in the process of updating our search results and we expect to roll out a reverse link feature in the coming weeks,” Spalding wrote in a later statement.