Google breaks silence over AI search results that told people to eat rocks, put glue on pizza

Google AI
(Image credit: Google)

While Apple's WWDC 2024 is expected to focus on plenty of AI-focused features, Google gave us a glimpse of what not to do last week.

The company, whose search engine is routinely regularly updated algorithmically to add new features that adjust rankings, rolled out its AI Overviews feature to summarise responses to a user's query.

With the AI seemingly unable to discern between genuine medical advice and satire, however, the process went more than a little awry, infamously suggesting users could use glue to make cheese stick to pizza or eat rocks to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

In a blog post this week from Liz Reid, VP and Head of Google Search, the company reflected on a challenging launch.

Google icon on iPhone

(Image credit: Brett Jordan)

Google discusses AI Overviews launch

While the post suggests there are some "faked screenshots", Reid notes that AI Overviews were predominantly caught out by "queries that people don’t commonly do."

"One area we identified was our ability to interpret nonsensical queries and satirical content," it reads, pointing to the "how many rocks should I eat" query that went viral.

"There isn't much web content that seriously contemplates that question, either. This is what is often called a “data void” or “information gap,” where there’s a limited amount of high-quality content about a topic," Reid explains.

"However, in this case, there is satirical content on this topic … that also happened to be republished on a geological software provider’s website. So when someone put that question into Search, an AI Overview appeared that faithfully linked to one of the only websites that tackled the question."

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Google promises improvements have been made

According to the post, Google has now refreshed its technology with "better detection mechanisms for nonsensical queries that shouldn’t show an AI Overview, and limited the inclusion of satire and humor content" while also leaning away from user-generated content where it could be deemed misleading.

"We added triggering restrictions for queries where AI Overviews were not proving to be as helpful," Reid adds, also pointing to "additional triggering refinements to enhance our quality protections" when it comes to health and news-related content.

It's clear Google's AI Overviews need a sizeable change to bring it up to scratch - otherwise, it could join the graveyard of Google products. There are also concerns that by surfacing content without driving clicks to websites, Google will end up cannibalizing the sites that users go to.

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Lloyd Coombes

Lloyd Coombes is a freelance writer with a specialism in Apple tech. From his first, hand-me-down iMac, he’s been working with Apple products for over a decade, and while he loves his iPhone and Mac, the iPad will always have his heart for reasons he still can’t quite fathom. Since moving from blogging to writing professionally, Lloyd’s work can be found at TechRadar, Macworld, TechAdvisor and plenty more. He’s also the Editor in Chief at, and on the rare occasion he’s not writing you’ll find him spending time with his son, or working hard at the gym (while wearing an Apple Watch, naturally). You can find him on Twitter @lloydcoombes.