With the emergence of fake news, it was only a matter of time before someone developed something that helped us decipher fact from fiction. And that someone was none other than Google. Well, they might not have been the first, but when they do something, they do something. Google is working with fact checking agencies such as Snopes and PolitiFact to ensure that you’re getting accurate information. Hoping to bring legitimacy to search results. There have been so many “news” stories over the last year or so that were so extremely outrageous. But as consumers, I think we fall victim to the fake news fairly easily. Why would a reputable news source provide you with something that wasn’t news?
I don’t think that’s the intention, but you pick up a story and you run with it. Well… it’s not the intention of the reputable news sources, but there are people out there that want you to believe things that aren’t true. Can someone say “propaganda”? That being said, will this Google service legitimize the news? Or is this a way to placate the masses?
Let’s look at how it works. First, Google has to decide if the search is worthy of fact check notice. If it is, the fact checking data will be placed at the top of the search results. Letting you see exactly what the situation is with that particular search, and subsequent search results. The fact checking bots only look at certain research sites, and then Google uses an algorithm to determine whether the information is coming from an authoritative source.
I can see a couple of gaps with this off the top. Not everything starts with research. Or, at least not in the way I’m thinking about it. Which might be completely off. For example – news happens in New York City. The New York time reports on said news. Maybe it’s an event. Or bad weather. Is the New York Times considered to be an authoritative source? My hunch is yes, but would it be considered a research site also? That’s where I think this gets a bit shady. Any newspaper could be considered an authoritative source, in theory. So what’s preventing a newspaper from printing something incorrect? (Note, I’m not suggesting that the NYT would do that. Simply making a statement to support the argument.)
If a politician randomly throws out a claim, it makes sense that this type of information is checked. But again, who is doing the checking? Or rather, what source is it coming from. A politician could say that the unemployment rate in his state is 2%, when it’s closer to 10%. I think that kind of data is easy to check. But the same politician could say that 90 million people came out for his inauguration, but is there a source that actually knows what those numbers are? Or is it all guess work?
If I continue with this thought process, I think that Google’s fact checking bots are going to come up with a lot of information that isn’t accurate. Getting back to this idea about information being subjective. If that same politician thinks that there are 90 million people outside his window, how do we know that it’s not true? It’s not like a building where we might have a head count. Sure, someone could do the math and make estimates about how many people can be in a square foot etc. etc… but is there a way of actually knowing exactly what that number is?
I think math is wonderful. And I think that it gives us a lot of data and information that we might not otherwise have had. But I worry that the types of sources that are going to be considered authoritative, might not be. Who is making that decision? Is it Google? Will some nefarious authoritative source pop up that has bad intentions? Maybe not. Maybe this will yield the results that we need. Or at least the results to ensure that we aren’t spreading rumours and fake news.
I worry sometimes about how we apply these things to our lives. Maybe I’m super gullible, and believe everything that I read. So this type of service would definitely help me to get the facts straight. But then there are some people that don’t believe in certain facts. Did someone say climate change? Or the shape of the earth? So how would a service like this even work in those situations? We can highlight the facts, but not everyone believes them. I just wonder if this will make a difference or have the impact that it needs to have.