The Impact of Snippet Reliability on Misinformation in Online Health Search

Anat Hashavit, Tamar Stern, Hongning Wang, Sarit Kraus

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Search result snippets are crucial in modern search engines, providing users with a quick overview of a website's content. Snippets help users determine the relevance of a document to their information needs, and in certain scenarios even enable them to satisfy those needs without visiting web documents. Hence, it is crucial for snippets to reliably represent the content of their corresponding documents. While this may be a straightforward requirement for some queries, it can become challenging in the complex domain of healthcare, and can lead to misinformation. This paper aims to examine snippets' reliability in representing their corresponding documents, specifically in the health domain. To achieve this, we conduct a series of user studies using Google's search results, where participants are asked to infer viewpoints of search results pertaining to queries about the effectiveness of a medical intervention for a medical condition, based solely on their titles and snippets. Our findings reveal that a considerable portion of Google's snippets (28%) failed to present any viewpoint on the intervention's effectiveness, and that 35% were interpreted by participants as having a different viewpoint compared to their corresponding documents. To address this issue, we propose a snippet extraction solution tailored directly to users' information needs, i.e., extracting snippets that summarize documents' viewpoints regarding the intervention and condition that appear in the query. User study demonstrates that our information need-focused solution outperforms the mainstream query-based approach. With only 19.67% of snippets generated by our solution reported as not presenting a viewpoint and a mere 20.33% misinterpreted by participants. These results strongly suggest that an information need-focused approach can significantly improve the reliability of extracted snippets in online health search.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
StatePublished - 28 Jan 2024


  • cs.IR

Cite this