Thanks to the Internet, the spread of information is just a few deft key strokes away at all times. You can learn another language, fix household problems by watching DIY tutorials, and get most of your questions answered at lightning speeds. Unfortunately, this also means that there is a lot of bad information and fake stories just as easily accessible, and they, too, have the capability of spreading like wild fire. It has NEVER been more important to do your due diligence and fact check information as its consumed- but how does one know what’s fact and what’s fiction? Enter Google’s latest contribution to their search results- the fact check tag.
Curbing The Spread of Bad Info
So many flawed stories are shared on social networks because they were designed to hit us on a personal and emotional level- we share because we care, before thinking to check the credentials of the source. How often do we fall victim to the latest celebrity death hoax? We’ve all reposted a fictitious account of an imaginary crisis that is just believable enough to cause an outcry before we slow down long enough to question the legitimacy of the piece. Google is trying a simple solution to help people sift through the exaggerated and the authentic, by tagging stories that have undergone fact checking.
Know Your Source
For years, Google has included a labeling system for articles in news searches, including “Opinion,””Blog,” and “Wikipedia,” to help the search users know the source and basic foundation of the articles retrieved in the search query. Just in time for this year’s highly contentious US Presidential election, Google has announced that they will start including a “Fact Check” tag in the expanded story box as well as on the Android and iOS Apps for weather and news on mobile devices. The intention is, of course, to promote the spread of quality, unbiased information over sensationalist stories.
Promotion of Truth
Once Google invented its own parent company, Alphabet, in 2015, it became clear that the company was committed to their more innovative and humanitarian efforts. By separating out endeavors that were clearly profitable in the short term from their more creative long term ones, they were able to maintain the integrity of their more altruistic projects by keeping their profit-seeking shareholders out of it. Google has long held that it’s important for people to have easy access to quality information- and they are committed to being part of the solution. In fact, according to their ever-evolving company philosophy page, “…we’re always looking for new places where we can make a difference. Ultimately, our constant dissatisfaction with the way things are becomes the driving force behind everything we do.”
What Sites Get The Label?
A major story breaks. You overhear the basics but you want to know more. You turn to Google for more information and several sites carrying the story crop up at the top of the results. One carries the “fact check” tag. How do Google’s’ impersonal algorithms and filters “know” that this article carries quality information? They use several criteria to determine if the label should be applied, including transparency and being non-partisan. Websites may directly apply to have their content considered for the label.
With a constant barrage of information, it’s easy to fall prey to a hoax, to be fooled by satire, and to be blinded by the scandalous. Google is trying to do its part to make it easier to know what sources to trust. As Richard Gingras, Head of News at Google, concludes in the blog post, “We’re excited to see the growth of the Fact Check community and to shine a light on its efforts to divine fact from fiction, wisdom from spin.”