In a bid to categorize stories on its Google News service based on accuracy and facts, Google has introduced a new ‘fact-check’ tag. The news service aggregates timely news across sections and countries from multiple sources. In order to make its service more reliable, the new tag will differentiate verified stories from the rest. Traditionally, the service has different labels for articles which are categorized into In-Depth, Opinion, Wikipedia, and Highly-cited, among others.
In its blog post, the search giant explains that the new ‘fact-check’ label will help readers find fact checking in large news stories. The articles will come tagged with the new label and will show in the expanded story box on news.google.com and in the Google News & Weather apps. The new label will be rolled out first in the US and UK. The prime reason for introducing the new tag, according to Google, is the growing emphasis on fact checking in news. According to the Duke University Reporter’s Lab, fact checks are being conducted over 100 active sites around urban legends, politics, health, and the media, which is led by the International Fact-Checking Network. Google further explains that its news service determines whether an article contains fact checks in part by looking for the ClaimReview markup from schema.org.
To differentiate between articles containing fact checks, Google News also looks for sites which follow the commonly accepted criteria for fact checks. In order to tag articles with the new ‘fact check’ label, publishers can use the ClaimReview markup in fact-check articles. The Scheme Schema community, sponsored by Google, also draws support from Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex. The ClaimReview markup will be used to compile and organize stories with factual background. ALSO READ: Facebook to overhaul its Trending Topics section after controversy
In a separate section that explains each label into which trending news stories are categorized into, Google explains how the new ‘fact-check’ label works:
1. A publisher can apply the ‘fact-check’ label to stories with content that has been indicated as verified or fact-checked by schema.org ClaimReview markup, especially round-up stories that contain multiple fact-check analyses within a single story.
2. Before using the label, publishers need to ensure that the article meets the criteria of fact-checking sites. For example, discrete claims and checks must be clearly indicated in the body of fact-check articles to make it easier for readers to understand what was fact-checked and what conclusions were drawn by the publisher/author.
3. In order to curb unverified or poorly referenced stories listing first in Google News, the site suggests publishers to ensure that for fact-check stories, the analysis is transparent about sources and methods, and citations and references to primary sources is included.
4. Google isn’t only making it tougher for publishers but their organizations as well. For fact-check stories, Google suggests that one must ensure that the organization from where the news is being published is nonpartisan with transparent funding and affiliations.
5. The article titles of fact-check articles must also indicate that they contain contents of fact-checking or that a claim is being reviewed or state the conclusions reached.
Google further explains that it holds the power to intervene if posts are incorrectly labeled with the ‘fact-check’ tag. Sites which do not follow the criteria for the ClaimReview markup, then Google may either ignore that site’s markup or remove the site from Google News. ALSO READ: This hack brings Google Assistant to Android Marshmallow, but there’s a catch
Each day a lot of stories show up in Google News with the most relevant pieces showing first. In addition to that, more coverage from alternative sources is indicated. While the new ‘fact-check’ tag may or may not completely stop certain false stories picking up on Google News, it is likely to make it harder for such stories to show up more frequently. In an age of social media where sourcing of news is done from multiple stories, the new tool could also mean more work for publishers, who will be now required to follow the strict guidelines for fact-check in major stories of they want their content to be highlighted on Google News. But for Google, the tool serves as an effort to help it define fact from fiction, wisdom from spin.
That said, it is to be noted that unlike Facebook’s hazy news algorithm which has put the social media network in trouble in the past, the one by Google promises more transparency and clearly defined rules. A lot of internet users get their daily dose of news from social networking platforms. Facebook recently came under fire for showing up topics in its Trending Stories section which, many argued, were biased in political opinion. While Zuckerberg removed the role its human editors played in controlling the section, a recent report has claimed that after reducing human involvement in the process, there have been more incidents of fake news showing up on the portal. What Facebook could perhaps learn from Google’s news algorithm is to make it more transparent and open so that there is less scope of biased or fake reports rising up in users’ News Feed and ultimately making a non-worthy story go viral. ALSO READ: Google Transparency Report: India made 3,452 requests for user data in H1, 2016