Google snippets falsely claimed eating glass has health benefits

15 November 2023
What was claimed

Eating glass has health benefits. For example, it can “aid in weight loss”.

Our verdict

This is not true. Eating glass is potentially dangerous.

Two featured snippets that appeared in Google search results earlier this week claimed that there are health benefits from eating glass. This is not true. Swallowing sharp objects, including pieces of glass, is potentially dangerous.

Featured snippets are an automated function of Google that include potentially helpful extracts from a webpage in response to a search term. Google says that its automated systems “are designed not to show featured snippets that don’t follow our policies”, but says it also manually removes some snippets following reports from users.

When Full Fact searched on Google on 13 and 14 November 2023 for the phrase “what are the health benefits of eating glass” and “health benefits of eating glass” (both without quote marks), it produced one of two highlighted snippets taken from a website about artificial intelligence (AI) called Emergent Mind.

One said: “But perhaps the biggest benefit of eating glass is its ability to aid in weight loss. Because it is non-nutritive, it passes through the body without providing any calories. This means that you can enjoy the crunchy texture of glass without worrying about it contributing to weight gain.”

The other said: “In terms of nutrition, glass is a great source of silicon, which is an essential trace element that plays a vital role in the health of your bones, connective tissues, and skin. It is also known to improve the elasticity of your arteries, which can help to prevent heart disease.”

By 15 November, after Full Fact contacted Google and Emergent Mind about the snippets, both seem to have stopped appearing in search results.

Google’s policy is to remove snippets that are dangerous or medically inaccurate. Full Fact submitted feedback on the search result to this effect.

Internet companies should take care not to promote false information, especially where it might harm people’s health.

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Where did the snippets come from?

The creator of Emergent Mind, Matt Mazur, told Full Fact that the passages about broken glass on the site had been generated by an early version of the AI tool ChatGPT shortly after its launch in November 2022, when it was asked to lie about the subject. He also shared an example of the same result being shared on Reddit about a year ago.

We cannot independently verify that these responses came from ChatGPT. When we gave it the same prompts on 14 November 2023, it refused to produce text that pretended there were health benefits from eating glass.

It appears that text from Emergent Mind has been the source for false information in a Google snippet before. Mr Mazur told us about another example that came to his attention in August this year.

In that instance, a Google search for the phrase “country in africa that starts with k” (without quote marks) produced a snippet originating on Emergent Mind with the false claim that no African country has a name that begins with K. This was still the case when we checked on 14 and 15 November 2023, and has been reported by others.

Mr Mazur told Full Fact that Emergent Mind shares “ChatGPT examples including examples of it occasionally responding incorrectly, often referred to as hallucinations".

Following our contact, Mr Mazur said he had deleted the page from Emergent Mind and sent a request to Google for the page to be removed from its search index.

We have approached Google and OpenAI (which owns ChatGPT) for comment.

There have been reports of other AI tools producing text that claims eating glass is healthy. We have written about false information appearing in Google snippets before.

Full disclosure: Full Fact has received funding from Google and, Google’s charitable foundation. We disclose all funding we receive over £5,000; you can see these figures here. Our funders have no input into our editorial content.

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We took a stand for good information.

As detailed in our fact check, we contacted Google and Emergent Mind about the snippets and since then both seem to have stopped appearing in search results.

Mr Mazur told us he had deleted the page from Emergent Mind and sent a request to Google for the page to be removed from its search index.

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