Featured Snippets May Be A Problem, Google
A recent article at Search Engine Land (http://searchengineland.com/googles-one-true-answer-problem-featured-snippets-270549) highlights some of the issues google faces with their Featured Snippet tool. It's doing some funny things!
The Search Engine Land article gives examples of snippets being featured that show 5 US presidents being members of the KKK, confirms Barack Obama was the "King of the United States", and that Obama also "planning a communist coup." All of which are unverified at best. This also doesn't seem to be the doings of political hackers knowing how to manipulate Google. It seems to be a legitimate issue within the Google Algorithm.
Wait, What Are Featured Snippets?
In an effort to offer "one true answer" to users via the search tool, Google offers featured snippets to provide a quick answer to your question or highlight a most useful answer. You can read more about them from Google here. To give you an example, here's the search result for "what is a featured snippet"...
Highlighted in pink is the "featured snippet." You can see this particular one gives an excerpt that helps to answer the question directly. Website owners don't have much control, except to add a line of code to prevent google using snippets for their websites.
Are They Really A Big Issue?
We don't know. Sure, 99% of the feature snippets are actually pretty useful though often incomplete. Google has integrated machine learning within their algorithm and relies on machine learning to feed the user a snippet that's useful. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a good filter for accuracy. This can be problematic for a typical user that might expect to be fed accurate information. Using the examples above, you can see how people with strong political leanings could use these as further evidence of a conspiracy theory or hoax.
It's impossible to gauge what kind of negative impact this may have, but it is a real problem for Google. As a company that's produced such a high quality search engine, they simply don't need issues like this. Cracks in the foundation of their business like this can cause more serious problems down the road. In this case, I tend to agree with Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, they should just scrap featured snippets altogether for the time being.