Steven C. Wyer | Google Fact Checking Efforts

According to Third Coast Interactive, Inc. CEO Steven C. Wyer, fact checking is now a regular part of Google Search. Wyer shares more in the following Q&A.

Q: Why has Google added source verification to certain search queries?

Steven C. Wyer: The fact that fake news has become a problem really isn’t news at all. There’s so much misinformation out there that Google felt it necessary to have a way to visibly notate hot topic search queries as either fake news or legitimate information.

Q: Google is not the only website to take an interest in fake news recently, is it?

Steven C. Wyer: No, in August of 2016, social media giant Facebook actually fired an entire editorial team for presenting satirical news articles and conspiracy theories as real news.

Q: Is it really necessary to monitor the content that readers are offered when they perform a Google search?

Steven C. Wyer: There’s virtually unlimited information out there on the web and much of it is based on little more than flights of fancy. That’s never been more evident than with the 2016 presidential election, where supporters from both sides threw out erroneous claims about each other. While people are certainly entitled to believe what they want, it is important to flag articles as potentially untrue for those people seeking the truth.

Q: How does Google fact check an article?

Steven C. Wyer: There are a number of sites that have been granted Google’s fact checking callout. Snopes is one of the early adopters of the program along with PolitiFact and others. Any online publisher that regularly reviews third-party claims is eligible to include the “ClaimReview” structured data element on their page.

Q: Are these fact check tags guaranteed?

Steven C. Wyer: No, Google has outlined numerous guidelines that apply to all structured data markups. But Google specifically notes that they are not guaranteed and are included based on a domain ranking algorithm.

Q: What happens if two publishers reach a different conclusion when trying to verify fact?

Steven C. Wyer: Google will present conflicting fact checks so that searchers can make more informed decisions on which new sources to trust.

Q: Is it possible that fake fact checks could start to emerge?

Steven C. Wyer: That’s definitely a possibility and a problem that Google will have to face head-on. Since any website can mark its content as claim reviewed, there is nothing stopping them from using unreliable sources as a “confirmation” of their fact checking conclusions.

Q: How does Google determine whether a website is an authoritative source?

Steven C. Wyer: Google has kept its algorithms for determining a site’s legitimacy fairly quiet. They have made statements in the past that the algorithm uses multiple signals to determine the trustworthiness of the site itself.

Q: Do fact checking articles and websites get moved to the top of the search engine results pages?

Steven C. Wyer: Not necessarily. Google has stated that articles are not given any special rankings boost although credible websites often rank well anyway.