Fake news is an issue which is troubling news publishers, social media platforms and content curators all over the world. With Internet publishing making it easy for anyone with a keyboard and Internet connection to publish whatever information he or she want, there is a growing concern to check its mushroom-like outbreak.
If the majority of news items published are fake, then who will believe the real news creators?
In order to stop and weed out fake news phenomenon, Google has decided to launch fact checker protocol globally. But, this leads tan a even more dangerous situation: If Google is allowed to censor news, and fact check every story, then aren’t we providing absolute control to manipulate news to few organizations?
Who will control and monitor those who are controlling and monitoring news?
Is censored, ‘fact-checked’ news worse than fake news?
Google’s Crowdsourced Mechanism to Control Fake News
As per the blog published by Google, from now on, few publishers would be empowered to show a ‘Fact Check’ tag in Google News, while publishing their stories. This label will identify and show only those stories, which have been verified by other fact checking publishers.
A special snippet has been created, which show the following information, when the ‘Fact Check’ tag has been activated: a) Information about the claim made in the news story b) Who made the claim c) The organization/publisher which has checked the facts mentioned in the claim, and their verdict.
The news items would be now graded, based on the authenticity, as observed by the fact checking portals. The grades would be from true or partly true to partly false or false.
Here is an example of this mechanism, as seen in a Google search:
In their blog post, Google said, “After assessing feedback from both users and publishers, we’re making the Fact Check label in Google News available everywhere, and expanding it into Search globally in all languages.”
Fact Checking By Google Can Lead To More Chaos?
As per observations by some analysts, such filtering and censorship of news articles by Google and their allocated ‘team of publishers’ is bad for the whole media industry. Infact, some of them have even described this mechanism as more dangerous than fake news itself.
Before that, first let us understand who this fact checking mechanism will work.
To start with, Google has shrugged off its responsibility, by stating that this fact checking will be done by a group of 150 odd ‘fact checking portals’ and news publications, and Google has no role in this discretion.
The blog said, “These fact checks are not Google’s and are presented so people can make more informed judgements. “
Hence, for the same news item, users may now see and read different ‘conclusions’ done by different fact checking portals and publication.
The blog said,”.. there may be search result pages where different publishers checked the same claim and reached different conclusions..”
And who exactly can become fact checkers? As per the Google blog, “Only publishers that are algorithmically determined to be an authoritative source of information will qualify for inclusion..”
In collaboration with Reporter’s Lab at Duke University, Google has made a list of 115 such portals, publishers, which are allowed to fact check others’ articles, and then grade them based on their own discretion.
Now, the issue is, that most of these 115 publications and ‘fact checkers’ have themselves been involved in publishing fake, incorrect news in the past. Some of them are: NBC, CNN, CBS, The New York Times and The Washington Post, besides PolitiFact and Snopes among others.
In India, only one portal: factchecker.in has been listed as a trusted partner for checking the facts about news published in India.
On a broader level, this initiative by Google seems a noble cause, but practically speaking, this seems almost impossible task.
In case any publisher wants to become part of the fact checking initiatives, they must be implementing Schema.org ClaimReview markup on the pages which needs fact check tag to be shown. Besides, a widget created by Duke University called ‘Share The Facts’ can also be used.
Do you think that a watchdog should exist to censor, monitor and examine news items? Do let us know by commenting right here..