Joining the common efforts to tackle the spread of misinformation and fake news, Google will now display fact-checking labels in its search results in order to highlight vetted news and information and inform users whether it is considered to be true or false.
This new feature was first introduced to Google News in the United Kingdom and the United States in October 2016. It will appear as an information box in general search results and news search results globally. The company explained that the small snippets will show information about the claim made by a particular page or website and the results of fact checking on the highlighted claim. The fact checks are performed by trusted publishers and fact-checkers who can mark claims as having been checked.
Google believes that making fact checks more visible in search results can help people easier review and assess these fact checks, and eventually make their own informed opinions. The company also explained that the fact check boxes would not be displayed for every search result, and the list of fact checkers will only include publishers that are “algorithmically determined to be an authoritative source of information”.
This move comes amid heavy worldwide criticism of American tech giants for their inaction over the spread of fake news, especially around the recent US election and the extremist content. For instance, German chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet has also backed legislation that could impose fines of up to €50m on social networks if they refuse to delete illegal content and fail to provide users a tool to report misinformation and hate speech.
Facebook also introduced a new feature of third-party fact-checking to flag stories shared as “disputed”. A few days ago, the social media network also introduced a separate tool that designed to educate the public on how to spot fake news – it will be presented to users from 14 countries as a large post at the top of their News Feeds, containing 10 tips for identifying misinformation. Facebook was particularly pressured over this issue after the recent research, which revealed that it was the primary news source for 18-to-24-year-olds. Last summer, Facebook became embroiled in a fake news storm after introducing an algorithm that began promoting fake news.
Facebook is still trying to address concerns about its role in the spread of false information and now offers users tips for spotting fake news. This move is part of a broader strategy that will also see a growing range of “signals” from user behavior and third-party fact checkers used to remove fake news from Facebook.
Users in 14 countries (the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Myanmar) can see a large post at the top of their feeds informing them that “it is possible to spot false news” and providing ten tips for identifying misinformation. They include such measures as checking web addresses and not trusting headlines with shocking claims.
This information post will be rolled out over 3 days and users will see it no more than 3 times. Facebook is going to push the message out globally after the initial rollout in 14 countries. The social network defines fake news as articles that set out to deceive, contain objectively provable falsehoods and pretend to be from a “legitimate” source. The fact checkers will only be able to limit the spread of fake stories, which is deliberately narrow to avoid accusations of politically motivated censorship.
It is believed that the majority of fake news on Facebook was created for financial rather than political gain. Experts also think that impact of such misinformation could be mitigated by limiting how often people see it and depriving it of ad revenue. At the same time, Facebook explained that educational measures were also necessary to help people understand which news is fake and to encourage a more critical approach to such information.
The social media giant has long been criticized for failure to remove misinformation, especially during the recent US election, when fabricated stories about Trump and Clinton were read and shared by millions. Moreover, there were concerns over the way Facebook approaches taking down inappropriate and illegal content, including hate speech, while censoring legitimate posts instead. Finally, Zuckerberg’s website has also been accused of a lack of transparency around the way it tackles misinformation and its processes for taking down content.