- Google has broadened the availability of its "Fact Check" tool for Search and News globally, the company announced in a blog post. The feature first began testing on Google News with publishers in select regions in October.
- When users search for certain terms, the feature analyzes the claim, provides attribution for its source and gives a label of veracity ("Mostly true," "False," etc.) drawn from sites such as PolitiFact and Snopes. Fact checking won’t be available for every search, Google said, and some results might pull up differing conclusions.
- "These fact checks are not Google's and are presented so people can make more informed judgments," the blog post stated. "Even though differing conclusions may be presented, we think it’s still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim and have clear information on which sources agree."
Even though Google has been testing its own Fact Check tool for months, an official global rollout comes at a time when the tech giant is battling advertisers over the content it hosts on properties like YouTube as well as a general complaint that it doesn't take enough responsibility to ensure content is credible overall.
Fake news became a glaring issue during the past presidential election season, with a number of websites, many hosted overseas, creating false or inflammatory stories for the sole purpose of driving traffic for ad revenue. Many of those sites specifically targeted politically partisan audiences predisposed to believe negative stories about the opponent of their preferred candidate.
For major digital advertising platforms, hosting what's widely deemed "fake news" in these cases — and furthermore doing little to lower its visibility if not excise it entirely — harms credibility. Marketers advertising on giant networks like Facebook and Google have many of their ads placed through automated technology that has not, to date, been able to comprehensively monitor content to make sure it is appropriate for brands, resulting in frustrations.
The problem was particularly acute on Facebook, and the platform has since taken on a more active media role, establishing a third-party fact-checking system with signatories of Poynter's guidelines and a Journalism Project to deepen its relationship with publishers and media partners.
Tech platforms are often resistant to assume media responsibilities, in part to avoid accusations of censorship or bias, and Google will not be taking on an active role in flagging down potentially false content here, instead delegating those responsibilities to other sites.