New independently-verified ‘Fact Check’ tool added to news and search results.
In response to the rise of ‘fake news’, Google has begun displaying fact-checking labels in search results highlighting news and information that has been independently quantified and vetted by third party fact checking organisations.
‘With thousands of new articles published online every minute of every day, the amount of content confronting people online can be overwhelming. And unfortunately, not all of it is factual or true, making it hard for people to distinguish fact from fiction,’ said a blog post from Google announcing the news.
It’s important to note that the new ‘fact check’ feature doesn’t affect the order of search results and doesn’t label sites known to publish false information as untrustworthy. But now if a search query returns a result that has been reviewed, Google will clearly display if the claims have been labelled as true, false or something in between.
Is Google fact checking its own facts?
No. That wouldn’t be very trustworthy. Google is instead relying on fact checking websites such as Snopes and Politifact to assess the validity and truthfulness of published work online.
The fact-checking feature was originally trialled in the UK and US last October but has now been given a far wider release. Search results that Google consider to be highly authoritative will be highlighted.
Of course, conclusions and opinions drawn from any published material can vary dramatically depending on the personal beliefs, experiences, and political leanings of the person reading them. Google admits that this could be an issue, but said that its fact checking will at least help readers to at least understand the “degree of consensus” on particular topics.
Both Google and Facebook have been heavily criticised in the past year for ‘allowing’ the spread and dissemination of fake news on its media, most notably in the way it dealt with, or rather didn’t deal with fake news in last October’s US election. Fake news and false news stories have been widely alluded to as one of the reasons that Donald Trump ended up winning the presidency. Whether that’s true or not, is another story, and it’s credibility depends on where you fall within your own political point of view and just how much influence the spread of false information actually affected the way people voted.
The spread of false news is not a new problem of course. The vast ease and reach provided by search engines and expansive social networks such as Google and Facebook is, however. This new move by Google to fact check information at least gives users the knowledge that somebody, somewhere is checking facts.