Google has for sometime now used a variety of labels, such as ‘In-Depth’, ‘Opinion’, ‘Blog’ and ‘Local Source’ to identify different types of articles in Google News.
Starting this week, it will use a new label, ‘Fact Check’, to identify news stories with content that has been fact checked by news publishers or by fact checking organizations such as Snopes and PolitiFact to do its part of curb the publication of fake news.
The Fact Check label will be available for stories appearing in Google News worldwide and in Search results in all languages for which it is available.
Google has introduced the Fact Check label at a time of heightened concern that the internet has become a channel for "fake news" and political propaganda deliberately published on the web to deceive readers and sway public opinion.
Google first announced plans to introduce the Fact Check label last October and has been testing it in limited fashion in several countries. With this week’s announcement, publishers around the world will have an opportunity to have a ‘Fact Check’ label against stories that meet the appropriate requirements.
Stories from authoritative news sources that contain fact checks on public claims will be clearly labeled and include a snippet that contains information on who made the claim and whether the claim was accurate or not, said Cong Yu, Google research scientist, and Justin Kosslyn, product manager at Google think tank Jigsaw in a blog.
“This information won’t be available for every search result, and there may be search result pages where different publishers checked the same claim and reached different conclusions,” the two Google bloggers noted.
Also, Google will not do any fact checking of its own, but will merely present fact-checked stories so Internet users can make their own judgments about the veracity of public claims they said.
Google has provided information on how publishers can mark up specific pages where they might have fact checked public statements so the pages can be considered for the new label. Publishers can alternatively use a widget called ‘Share the Fact ‘developed by researchers at Duke University’s Reporters Lab, if they want their stories to be included in the feature, the two Google employees said.
The Fact Check label is one outcome of the growing pressure on companies like Google and Facebook to combat the spread of fake news articles via their sites. Both companies have been criticized for not doing enough to stop their sites from being used by scammers to spread disinformation via fake news stories.
The issue received considerable scrutiny during the U.S. presidential election, when Facebook’s platform in particular was used to spread stories that were perceived as being harmful to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expressed his company’s commitment to addressing the issue but has also stressed the importance of being careful when implementing changes designed to separate fake news from truthful ones. Zuckerberg has noted that any changes that Facebook makes to its policies will first be vetted thoroughly to ensure they don’t introduce “unintended side effects or bias into the system.”
The measures that Facebook is considering, or has implemented, include stronger fake news detection mechanisms, easier processes for people to report stories as fake and third party fact verification by fact checking organizations.
As part of the effort, the social media giant this week announced a new educational tool, available currently in 14 countries, that offers users tips on how to spot fake news by, among things, checking the URL and source. The tool will appear on top of Facebook’s News Feed for a “few days” in the 14 countries, the company said in a statement this week.