As an ever increasing amounts of information are added online, establishing the veracity of that information has become an important factor for both people and corporations. As such, fact checking has become a popular trend, with multiple sites being established that carry out fact checking on various statements and claims.
To facilitate this, Google announced a few days ago that they are now including a “fact check” tag in their listing for Google News links and results.
Not So Fast
As good as that sounds, and reaction has certainly been positive, it doesn’t actually mean what one might think it does. Seeing that tag doesn’t mean that Google has verified that the facts in the story are true. It just means that the people who publish the article claim to have fact-checked it.
It uses schema.org structured markup, which is code designed to allow search engines and applications to understand the information contained in web pages to provide better results.
Obviously, the first thing you may think of in relation to this is that there is a big difference between putting some code in your page that says the content has been fact-checked, and actually fact checking the contents of the page.
Another potential drawback is that this particular bit of structured data is still in the “pending” phase, which means it hasn’t yet been accepted into the “core” Schema vocabulary. On the Schema.org page for pending extensions, it notes that these extensions are subject to change and should be used with caution.
Toward A More Accurate Web
On the face of it, this is a good thing. Or at least, the beginning of a good thing. The web abounds with inaccurate, inflated, satirical, even downright fabricated information, and something like this could be the start of some sort of internet-wide confirmation or the veracity of any given set of information.
Right now though, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything of the sort. And eventually, there’s probably going to be some sort of obligation incumbent on Google for example, to actually verify the accuracy of the fact checking tag.
Right now, with only 10 domains in the world currently using the “fact check” tag, it’s one of those “looks good on paper” initiatives which doesn’t really make much difference.
Of course, the real question is how quickly and to what extent that will change.