Traditional Google searches are better than digital assistants such as Siri for sex advice, according to new research.
Experts found that traditional laptop searches gave the best responses to sexual health questions in 72 per cent of searches – 36 out of 50.
Google Assistant performed better than Siri, with 50 per cent of best responses, compared to 32 per cent, according to the findings published in The BMJ.
Typed searches also had the lowest outright failure rate, providing no useful response for just eight per cent of the questions, compared with 12 per cent for Google Assistant and 36 per cent for Siri.
Lead author Professor Nick Wilson, from the University of Otago in New Zealand, said: ‘Our findings show the importance of improving digital literacy in the general population.
‘UK data suggest that only 48 per cent of 1,516 people aged 16 years or older using search engines could correctly recognise an advertisement in search results, despite these being distinguished by a box with the word “ad”.
‘In particular, more needs to be done to encourage internet users to treat information in online lifestyle magazines with caution.
‘Goop, and its promotion of jade eggs for “vaginal weightlifting”, has been criticised for the quality of its health information, recently winning the 2017 “rusty razor” award for the most audacious pseudoscience.’
A recent UK survey found that 41 per cent of internet users go online for health related questions.
The questions chosen by the team to test software were based on information from the NHS site Healthy Choices and recent sex related news – or were designed to test functionality, for example, locating services or finding images and videos on how to have sex.
When they excluded some of the functionality test questions using digital assistants, 48 per cent of the search questions delivered expert sources, such as the NHS.
Six searches provided websites with ‘some expertise’ such as Wikipedia articles and commercially oriented sites, and six identified online magazine articles.
Surprisingly, Siri failed to find any videos of people having sex on the internet, and was more likely to respond with ‘I don’t have an opinion on that’.
Professor Wilson added: ‘Our experiences suggest that people can find quality sexual health advice when searching online, but this is less likely if they use a digital assistant, especially Siri, instead of Google laptop searches.
‘Parents too embarrassed to respond to their children’s questions about sex, can reasonably say ‘just Google it’, but we would not suggest asking Siri until it becomes more comfortable with talking about sex or at least has an opinion.
‘Clearly, the ideal is to ensure that all sexual health advice searches, including those using slang, colloquialisms, or New Zealand accents, are always directed to high quality sites with up-to-date, evidence based recommendations.’
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