Google is constantly updating and modifying to provide the best user experience possible. But because users and their behaviors are evolving all the time, it creates a constantly moving target. More recently, we’ve seen applications and search engines take efforts to address the amount of false information on the internet. In the past year or so, a flux of fake news and slander has circulated online. Following the 2016 presidential election, users and producers of content had a heightened awareness of just how detrimental and impactful popular, widely circulated falsehoods can be. As a result, many online leaders, including Google, have placed an emphasis on fact checking to provide the highest quality information to users.
The Fact Check Tag
The actual fact checking is not done by Google, but rather by reputable fact checking sources including Snopes and Politifact. Per Google’s statement about fact checking, “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.”
Publishers must first meet the guidelines to be included in this fact check feature, including usage of the Schema.org ClaimReview markup, and that’s assuming the publishers are already algorithmically considered an authoritative source by Google. Also, Google says, “Content must adhere to the general policies that apply to all structured data markup, the Google News Publisher criteria for fact checks, and the standards for accountability and transparency, readability or proper site representation as articulated in our Google News General Guidelines.”
It’s worth noting that Google is not paying the fact-checking organizations for participating in this tag, nor are the article with fact checked labels ranked any differently in search results. This development is mostly about Google’s ongoing commitment to providing the best results possible for users. The fact check tag will help users more easily identify reliable content and information from unreliable to better satisfy user intent.
Shifts in User Behavior
This adaptation is indicative of a much larger shift in user behavior, attitudes, and needs. Today, when two people disagree on information or users want to know something, it usually ends in a web search. The internet is intimately ingrained into modern society, and the information found online clearly can have massive impacts on beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors.
Users are impressionable beings and gravitate towards popular content, sometimes regardless of whether or not it’s true. The development of this fact check tag directly addresses this particular evolution in user behavior and will hopefully help everyone find better quality results that are factual, productive, and actually worthy of being widely shared.