Google's war on fake news goes global: Search results now tagged 'true' or 'false'

Google is rolling out fact-check labels in its news and search results to help users decide whether a public claim is true or false.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Some Google search results will now show a summary about the claim, who said it, and which organization fact-checked it.

Image: Google

Google has started showing a 'fact check' label in search results next to articles containing claims that have been vetted for veracity.

The fact-check tagging system, which is rolling out globally on Google Search and News, expands on a program introduced by Google's Jigsaw group to Google News in the UK and US in October.

Now some results will display a summary showing what the claim was, who said it, and which organization fact-checked it.

Only articles that have been fact-checked by news publishers and fact-checking organizations will display the label and summary.

Google itself does not vet articles or facts but has decided to include the labels, not necessarily to clamp down on producers of fake news, but to highlight articles that have been fact-checked in accordance with its own news publisher rules.

"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 Justin Kosslyn and Cong Yu of the Jigsaw group.

Publishers will need to conform to several rules to have their articles displayed with the fact-check label. Google will only display the label for publishers that have used the Schema.org ClaimReview markup on each page where they have checked the facts of a public statement, or if they use the Share the Facts widget.

Also, it will only include publishers that are "algorithmically determined to be an authoritative source of information", while the content must adhere to Google's New Publisher fact-checking criteria.

Google says users should expect to see search-result pages with conflicting conclusions by different publishers.

"Even though differing conclusions may be presented, we think it's still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim and have clear information on which sources agree," wrote Kosslyn and Yu.

Google's fact-checking labelling system follows a program launched by Facebook on Thursday to help users spot 'false news'. Facebook last week started displaying "tips for spotting false news" at the top of its news feed for users in 14 countries.

The alert links to the Facebook Help Center, where 10 tips for spotting fake news include being skeptical of headlines, looking closely at the URL, investigating the source, watching for unusual formatting, and considering the photos.

It also advises users to inspect the dates, check the evidence, check other reports, question whether the story is a joke, and to remember some stories are intentionally false.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter have stepped up efforts to combat fake news following criticisms after the US election that they did not do enough to prevent the spread of disinformation.

However, the latest initiatives by Google and Facebook aim to patch up the other side of the problem and address the issue of the consumer's responsibility to determine whether what they're reading is a lie.

A recent study by Stanford University researchers drew attention to the difficulties students had in making such judgements about news shared on social media, which has become the primary source for news for many people.

Besides fake news on search results, Google also says it's addressed the lingering problem of fraudulent business listings on Google Maps: for example, unaccredited locksmiths that charge exorbitant fees. Scammers have been taking advantage of local listings to target victims in nearby areas.

A joint study with University of California, San Diego found that Google had reduced fake business listings on Maps by 70 percent from its peak in June 2015. It also found that fewer than 0.5 percent of local searches led to bogus services.

VIDEO: Filtering fake news: Google introduces fact-check tags to search results

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