Google is making it easier to cut through Internet nonsense with a new Google News tag purpose-built for our era of discontent, fake news stories on social media, and flat-out lies.
The search giant says you will soon see a “Fact Check” tag next to appropriate news stories in the expanded story box on Google News. The new tag is rolling out to the U.S. and U.K. editions of the Google News website, as well as the Google News & Weather apps for Android and iOS.
The new Google News tags are just like the others you already see on the site, such as “Highly Cited,” “In Depth,” and the more recent “Local Source,” which rolled out in May. For sites to be considered for the “Fact Check” slot they need to be using schema.org’s ClaimReview metadata markup, and “follow the commonly accepted criteria for fact checks.” Google’s “commonly accepted criteria” is explained in greater detail on its help pages. The most important thing, however, appears to be adding proper markup to a webpage.
While Google doesn’t explicitly spell it out, there must also be some kind of human curation to determine whether sites are following the “commonly accepted criteria” for fact-checking.
If it’s just a matter of properly formatted markup then any partisan website could add that to their stories in order to build a “Google Bomb” to unfairly earn “Fact Check” tags. That would be a disaster since the whole point of a “Fact Check” tag is to instill confidence that what we’re reading is the straight story without any spin.
The story behind the story: It’s no coincidence that the new “Fact Check” tags are rolling out first to the U.S. and U.K. Both countries are currently embroiled in very divisive public conversations. The presidential election in the U.S. has become a haze of spin, deception, and an “us vs. them” mentality. Meanwhile in the U.K., anti-immigrant fervor after the Brexit vote is fueling all sorts of reports of draconian measures under consideration by Parliament or the Prime Minister’s Office.
On top of all that, Facebook’s supposedly trusty trending news section has become a hive of fake news stories. Ever since the social network fired its human news editors, top stories have included parodies, conspiracy theories, and other false fodder, as The Washington Post recently reported.