With so much information (and potential misinformation) available out our fingertips, and the vast majority of it available with just a quick search, Google has realized the influential role it plays in helping to discern fact from fiction online. To help fight back against misinformation and blatant disinformation campaigns, it has developed Google Fact Check.
But how exactly did Google Fact Check come about and how exactly does it work? What are some of the criteria it follows and what are some of the drawbacks of using it? In this article, we’ll do a deep-dive into how to fact-check information with Google Fact Check, as well as its development and history, its limitations and how it works. Let’s take a closer look:
A Brief History of Google Fact Check
In the mid 2010s, especially surrounding U.S. Presidential Elections and other global events, there started to be a noticeable spike in blatant misinformation and “fake news”. Because Google was one of the world’s most popular search engines, news aggregators and general “first stops” on the internet, it faced a great deal of pressure to deal with this problem.
Before launching Google Fact Check, the company had already started integrating ways for users to report misleading or inaccurate content, however these tools were often difficult to find and seldom used; they simply weren’t enough in the face of growing misinformation that seemed to be getting bigger, spreading faster and scooping up more people in its path.
Google Fact Check was released as a tag in Google News in select countries. It would show users which news articles were fact-checked and give more context to stories. This was considered something of a “beta rollout” and was both successful and highly useful. Google expanded the feature worldwide in 2017. By this time it went beyond just Google News. Fact-checked articles also started appearing in the search results as well.
Like Facebook’s fact-checkers, Google collaborated with third-party fact-checking organizations to verify the authenticity of its news stories. These organizations adhered to a broader set of standards set forth by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). This organization is committed to non-partisanship, fairness, transparency and to “practicing what they preach” when it comes to upholding standards and influencing fact-checking methodologies.
With partnerships like these in mind, Google then set about developing and honing its algorithms to identify potentially fake stories. It also leverages its technology to cross reference claims within its fact-checker’s databases. Whenever users search for news, if a partner organization has fact-checked it, Google displays a summary of the results showing how true the claim is.
Today, Google Fact Check works with international fact-checking organizations around the world to help users verify claims and stories in over 70 different languages. It continues to develop its algorithms and improves how its fact-checking summaries are displayed so that consumers can better understand the information they’re reading from a clearer point of view.
How Does Google Fact Check Work?
The Google Fact Check API (an API is like a set of programming instructions) works in three steps:
First, Google’s algorithms identify claims as either news or statements that might be very controversial or very commonly searched. It then collaborates with worldwide fact-checking organizations. Whenever it detects a claim, it cross-references databases from these organizations. If some of its fact-checking partners have reviewed the claim, you’ll often see a summarized version of findings underneath the news article or search results. It will usually tell you if the claim is true, false or in-between.
Google’s Fact-Checking Network
Not just anyone can be a part of Google’s fact-checking network. In fact, the company holds its fact checkers to a very rigorous standard, relying on the criteria that was originally set by the IFCN which includes things like non-partisanship, transparency and reliability among . others.
Its efforts appear to be working. Over time, Google Fact Check Explorer has been able to:
Build Greater Trust with Users - By presenting verified summaries, Google is looking to build upon its established user trust and continue to position itself as the main go-to platform worldwide for credible information.
Encourage More Critical Thinking - By integrating fact-checking and verified information, Google is helping to cultivate a culture that prizes scrutiny and critical thinking.
Help Stop or Lessen the Spread of Misinformation - Fake news and misinformation can have real-world consequences that can spread out to affect society as a whole. By taking on a proactive approach, Google is working to help curb this tendency by providing immediate fact verification.
There is still work to be done, however. It’s worth noting that not all systems are foolproof and Google Fact Check does have its limitations, such as:
Not All Claims are Fact-Checked - With so much information out there, not every claim can be fact-checked. It’s entirely possible that some may slip through the cracks.
There is the Potential for Bias - Although Google and its fact-checking organizations adhere to a strict code of ethics and processes, it’s still entirely possible for organizations to bring in subtle biases even with the best of intentions.
Fact-Checking Relies on Third Parties - Because much of the heavy lifting of fact checking by Google is done by third parties, the quality and speed of the fact checks themselves relies on them and not the split-second pace of Google that we’re all used to thanks to searches.
What We Can Learn from Google’s Credibility as a Fact Checker
Tools like Google Fact Checker are a positive step toward creating a more informed digital space and a more informed public as a whole. Although steps like Google Fact Check Explorer are a way to make sure that more truth than fiction is being published and shared online, it’s important that the average user must also approach the claims they read with skepticism, drawing upon different sources or cross-referencing information so that they can make an informed decision or opinion with confidence.
Try Originality.AI’s own fact checker to improve your writing and verify the claims set out in the content you write. As with all of Originality.AI’s tools, you can check for plagiarism, AI detection, readability and more by picking and choosing which tools you want to use for each piece of content. Try it now!