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    Friday, April 1, 2022

    Google Updates Search, News to Help Users Identify Trusted Sources

    With International Fact-Checking Day coming up on April 2nd, Google has provided a new overview of its evolving efforts to detect misinformation online, and limit the reach of false reports in partnership with its fact-checking partners.

    Google has significantly ramped up its efforts to address misinformation, with a range of Search upgrades and alerts to help users better understand the sources that they’re connecting with for updates.

    And now, Google’s bringing more tools to the fight.

    First off, Google’s adding a new notice on evolving news stories which will alert searchers that the facts are still being clarified.

    As you can see in this example, the new alerts, rolling out for English-language searches in the US, will make the searcher aware of the evolving nature of the story, and will include tips to help the user evaluate information online, like a reminder of the importance of relying trusted sources.

    Small prompts like this are often all that’s required to get users to take a moment of pause for clarity on such, before re-distributing false narratives, while it could also serve as a learning tool to improve digital literacy, by underlining the dangers of trusting everything that you read online.

    Google’s also adding a new ‘Highly Cited’ label to help users find the source info for major news stories.

    As explained by Google:

    “Let’s say a local news organization breaks an investigative story looking into problems at your local school district. The story is so big that it gets picked up by numerous other media outlets.

    But what if you didn’t see that original story, which had unique context for local residents? We’re introducing a way to help you identify stories that have been frequently cited by other news organizations, giving you a simple way to find the most helpful or relevant information for a news story.”

    The new label will appear on Top Stories, while everything from articles, to interviews to press releases will be eligible for the new tag.

    And aside from promoting key source research, Google’s also hoping that it will help to elevate original reporting, “making it even easier for people to discover and engage with the publishers and journalists whose work brings unique value to a story.”

    The highly cited label is launching soon on mobile in English for the US, with other regions to follow in the coming weeks.

    In addition to these upgrades, Google also suggests that Searchers familiarize themselves with its Fact Check Explorer tool, which enables users to search for any topic that they have questions about, and cross-references over 150,000 fact checks to provide more context.

    While you can also cross-check the history of any website via the Search results page.

    Google also highlights its continued support of a number of fact-checking programs through its Google News Initiative, helping to enhance the expertise available to examine and verify online information.

    Which is a battle that can never be won, not fully, as the rapid pace of online publishing makes it impossible to completely stop the spread of false and misleading information, either via bad actors or unwitting users and publications.

    But it can be slowed significantly. With the right systems in place, Google, as well as all the other major platforms, can detect and limit the spread of potentially harmful untruths, and stop them from gaining viral traction, which is the key focus of initiatives like this.

    Still, Google-owned YouTube remains a key source of misinformation, while Google also inadvertently funds many click-bait farms through its ad tools. As such, it clearly has a way to go in addressing these elements, but every step is another move in the right direction, and it’s good to see Google continuing to evolve its fact-checking programs, especially as people increasingly rely on online sources over more traditional (legacy?) news outlets.

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