Google Readies 'Trust Labels' to Bolster Confidence in News Sources

Google's effort is part of a broader Trust Project designed to help Internet users more easily distinguish credible content from misinformation.

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Google will soon start adding labels next to stories in Google News to help users more easily identify content from credible sources.

The labels, or Trust Indicators, are being developed under the aegis of a broader effort called the Trust Project designed to give readers more context on online articles so they can distinguish legitimate journalistic content from misinformation and promotional material.

The goal is to bolster trust in credible online journalism amid all the continuing reports about false news stories and misinformation campaigns on major online platforms such as Google and Facebook.

Santa Clara University's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics is hosting the Trust Project. In addition to Google, Facebook, Twitter and Bing, other participating news organizations include the Washington Post, the Economist, The Globe and Mail, Italy's La Repubblica and the Trinity Mirror.

"At a time when the public’s trust in news is declining in much of the world, the news industry is launching a new set of transparency standards that help people easily assess the quality and reliability of journalism," the Trust Project said in a Nov. 16 statement.

The Project has developed an initial set of eight trust indicators that publishers can add to their content for additional context. The indicators include a best practices indicator describing a publisher's ethics, accuracy, sourcing and other standards; an author expertise indicator; and a type of content indicator to distinguish news, analysis, opinion and other content.

Other indicators include ones for citations and references, for diverse voices, and for the methods used by reporters to pursue particular articles.

News publishers can embed these indicators in their site's code so search engines such as Google and Bing can pick them up and link to via the Trust Indicators.

"When tech platforms like Google crawl the content, we can easily parse out the information—such as Best Practices, Author Info, Citations & References, Type of Work," said Jeff Chang, group product manager of Google search in blog. From Google's standpoint, the process would be similar to the one that it already uses for fact-checking articles. "Once we’ve done that, we can analyze the information and present it directly to the user in our various products."

Google is still figuring out how to display these Trust Indicators next to stories in Google News, Google Search and on other products where news content can be found, Chang said. "Some possible treatments could include using the “Type of Work” indicator to improve the accuracy of article labels in Google News, and indicators such as “Best Practices” and “Author Info” in our Knowledge Panels," he said.

While Google is still figuring out how it will use the Trust Indicators, Facebook has already begun testing the labels on content in its News Feed.

Facebook users will soon be able to click on trust icons next to articles on News Feed to get more information on the publisher, including their ethics, fact checking and corrections policies and their ownership structure.

Facebook is initially testing the indicators with a small set of publishers but plans to make it available on a wider basis to other publishers as well. The company will broaden the number of trust indicators that will be available for clicking on New Feed.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.