Facebook and Google move to tackle fake news

Social media giant adds tips on spotting bogus reports; search engine rolls out 'fact check' tag

SAN FRANCISCO • Internet titans Google and Facebook have rolled out new initiatives that seek to combat the spread of fake news on their websites.

Google, the world's largest search engine, is rolling out a new feature that places "Fact Check" tags on snippets and articles in its news results, reported Bloomberg. The company's parent, Alphabet, had already run limited tests of the feature and yesterday, it extended the capability to every listing in its search pages and massive search catalogue.

Meanwhile, Facebook ramped up the fight against fake news by adding tips for users on how to tell when shared stories are bogus, reported Agence France- Presse (AFP).

The tips included checking website addresses along with searching out other sources or articles on topics. The initiative, which was launched in the United States, France and a dozen other countries on Thursday, added an educational tool in an "awareness display" that will be visible on users' news feeds for three days.

The social media giant also plans to pay fact-checkers to monitor news on its platforms, in the face of sustained criticism that it has not done enough to stop the spread of fake news.

The move to hire fact-checkers marks Facebook's first effort to formalise its relationship with third parties dedicated to debunking bogus stories, including news organisations that are active in the US, France, Germany and the Netherlands, reported the Financial Times. So far, Facebook has formed partnerships with third parties such as Politifact, Snopes, AFP, BFMTV, L'Express, Le Monde and Berlin-based non-profit Correctiv.

Facebook's move came after German ministers approved plans to fine social media firms up to €50 million (S$74.5 million) if they do not proactively remove hate speech and fake news within seven days of posting.

Google is not entirely giving up its usual hands-off approach either: The company is letting others do the fact-checking.

The approach is meant to legitimise or question claims online, Google said in a blog post. Checked search results list the name of the person or group making the assertion and the determination of the fact-checker.

While any publisher can apply to add fact-check labels to content, Google search algorithms will determine whether they appear in results, a spokesman said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2017, with the headline 'Facebook and Google move to tackle fake news'. Print Edition | Subscribe