Google last week launched a Fact Check tag to help readers find fact-checking in major news stories published in the United States and the UK.
Readers will see tagged articles in the expanded story box on news.google.com and in the Google News & Weather apps for iOS and Android.
One factor the Google News algorithms consider in determining whether an article might contain fact checks is the Schema.org ClaimReview markup.
Another is whether sites follow commonly accepted criteria for fact checks.
Although there’s a slew of biased media reports about the presidential candidates, the Fact Check tag “is aimed at all stories, not just political ones,” Google said in a statement provided to TechNewsWorld by company rep Maggie Shiels. “The tag has just launched, so you will likely see an uptick in the coming weeks.”
Applying the Fact Check Label
Google requires that discrete claims and checks be identified easily in the body of Fact Check articles. Readers should be able to understand what was checked, and what conclusions were reached.
Analysis must be transparent about sources and methods, with citations and references to primary sources.
The organization must be nonpartisan, with transparent funding and affiliations. It should examine a range of claims in its topic area instead of targeting a single person or entity.
Article titles must indicate that a claim is being reviewed, state conclusions reached, or simply indicate that the contents consist of fact checking.
Google News may apply the Fact Check tag to content published with fact-checking content adhering to its criteria.
Google may remove sites that don’t follow the criteria for the ClaimReview markup from Google News, or ignore the site’s markup.
What’s in a Tag
“Done well, where valid news stories that report ethically and accurately are used, this could really help journalism and the public,” said Lynn Walsh, national president of the Society of Professional Journalists.
“For journalists, it’s just one more validation that their work is trustworthy,” she told TechNewsWorld. “For the public, it provides a way to cut through the clutter that sometimes exists — like articles that don’t clearly distinguish between fact and opinion.”
However, there’s a risk that tagged articles may not be fully vetted, accurate or ethically reported, Walsh warned. “With this just launching it’s too early to tell, but this is something I think journalists and news organizations should watch closely.”
Who Watches the Watcher?
“It appears that Google’s depending on fact checking collectives to police themselves and is then simply utilizing fact checkers that conform to the standards of the collectives,” said Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.
“This is OK, but Google may face issues unless it makes the quality of its fact checking very clear,” he told TechNewsWorld. “A disavowal of the accuracy of fact checking seems likely at some point.”
Another concern is whether Google is “attempting to credential articles and reporters as legitimate, and others as non-legitimate,” Walsh said.
There’s a need for legitimizing sources, but “this could be a slippery slope,” she cautioned. “We have a right to publish and speak freely in this country no matter who you are.”